U.S. agency rescinds order banning Louisiana distributor from opioid sales

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Friday reversed an order that halted a Louisiana drug wholesaler’s opioid sales over allegations it failed to report suspiciously large orders by pharmacies for the narcotics, court documents showed.

Seeking to battle a national opioid abuse crisis, the agency of the Justice Department imposed the suspension on Shreveport-based Morris & Dickson Co on May 2. It accused the 177-year-old company of failing to “properly identify large suspicious orders for controlled substances sold to independent pharmacies.”

The company immediately disputed the charge, and last week a U.S. District Court judge in Shreveport entered a temporary restraining order blocking the DEA from enforcing the suspension.

“This is a striking vindication for our family company,” Paul Dickson, president of Morris & Dickson, said in a statement posted on the company’s website on Friday.

“This proves what we’ve said all along - that DEA’s hasty action was unjustified. We have always taken our responsibility to prevent diversion seriously.”

The DEA’s order marked the first time during President Donald Trump’s administration that it had moved to immediately block narcotic sales by a distributor as the agency attempts to combat a national opioid abuse epidemic.

A DEA probe focusing on purchases of the highly addictive painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone showed that, in some cases, pharmacies were allowed to buy as much as six times the quantity of narcotics they would normally order, the agency said.

The U.S. government is trying to crack down on opioid abuse through a number of measures, including a proposal last month to tighten rules governing the amount of prescription opioid painkillers that drugmakers can manufacture in a given year.

Reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Cynthia Osterman