CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin has ruled against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s suspension of a West Virginia pharmacy.
Goodwin’s order dissolves the DEA’s suspension of the Oak Hill Hometown Pharmacy.
“The court finds that the DEA has not demonstrated that immediate suspension of the pharmacy’s registration is necessary to prevent an ‘imminent danger to public health and safety,'” Goodwin wrote.
The order will allow the pharmacy to resume filling prescriptions for medication-assisted treatments.
DEA agents raided the pharmacy in August. The suspension was based on allegations of improper dispensing from December 2016 to March 2019 of 2,000 prescriptions for drugs including Subutex, an opioid replacement.
The activities constituted an ‘imminent danger to the public health or safety’” federal officials alleged.
U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, at a press conference then, announced the suspension of the pharmacy’s certificate of registration. He said the pharmacy should have been aware of red flags, particularly prescriptions from an out-of-state clinic located almost 200 miles away.
“Prescribing controlled drugs is a privilege and not a right,” Stuart stated.
Goodwin’s order in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia agreed that the opiate crisis has had a devastating effect.
But he said the Drug Enforcement Agency had not met a standard of proof in this particular case.
“Simply demonstrating an unqualified risk of illegal drug use is not a finding of imminent danger,” Goodwin wrote. “The DEA has not pointed to a single instance of violation of the law.
“The DEA does not even contend that a specific patient abused or diverted Subutex or Suboxone. The DEA simply offers what it sees as a suspicious pattern of the filling of lawful prescriptions for medication designed to treat opiate addiction.”
Stuart released the following statement Thursday in response to Goodwin’s ruling:
“The DEA determined an ISO was warranted and necessary in the matter of Oak Hill Pharmacy and my office supported their determination. My office is currently reviewing all options relative to the court’s ruling. I will continue to take any and all possible actions to protect the public, to end the opiate crisis, and to combat all pill fillers that indiscriminately fail to comply with federal laws.
The statement I issued in August regarding the obligation of pharmacists was correct then and it’s correct now. I said, “Prescribing controlled drugs is a privilege and not a right. Every pharmacy that fills prescriptions of scheduled narcotics has a corresponding responsibility to assure that those prescriptions do not include unresolvable red flags and are for a legitimate medical purpose. It is the proper role of law enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration to ensure public safety with respect to the dispensing of controlled substances by pharmacists and providers. We take this responsibility seriously.””