The Secret Rx War

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Tipline Investigation: The Secret Rx War

Taking prescription drugs off the street

From article:

But on June 16, pharmaceutical manufacturer, McKesson, cut off the Pain Management Pharmacy in Santa Maria where Biliardi would get the drugs that her son needs. Besides Huntington’s, James also suffers from Klinefelter’s Syndrome and diabetes. The drugs he took regularly until McKesson stopped its shipments included, Methadone 380mg/day, Atavan 12mg/day and Fentanyl TOFC of up to 2400 mcg/day for breakthrough pain. Biliardi says her son is allergic to some of the other pain medications that are often prescribed. “You can’t just cold turkey take them off of something like that, it’s gonna kill them” Biliardi said.

“I almost died from just weaning off my previous medications that they put me on. I don’t know what to do now. They’ve taken the only thing away from me that works,” said James as he sat in a chair and struggled to get the words out.

Why did McKesson stop its drug shipments? Scott Guess, owner of Pain Management Pharmacy in Santa Maria, says that a week before all of this happened, a McKesson senior official told him he was a finalist for their pharmacist of the year award. The next time they spoke, Guess said he expected good news, “Instead, he said we are going to suspend shipment of all controlled substances effective immediately with no reason why, no recourse. they won’t even return my calls at this point.”

Guess speculates that a recent $80 million fine against Walgreens has something to do with it. Just five days before McKesson cut him off, the Drug Enforcement Agency slammed Walgreens, the nation’s largest pharmacy chain, for failing to control sales of narcotic painkillers. “McKesson doesn’t want to be the next $80 million fine headline so they decided to shoot first and ask questions later,” Guess said.

Who’s behind it? Some in the pharmaceutical industry believe its the DEA. An  estimated 16,000 Americans died from overdoses linked to pain killers in 2010 and the problem is getting worse. No one we spoke with for this story was willing to talk on camera about it, but Tony Park, an attorney and member of the California Pharmacist Association, did talk with NewsChannel 3 by phone. He believes the DEA is using intense political pressure to take the pills off the street. “I suspect the DEA has a national campaign to decrease the total amount of controlled substances in our medicine cabinets,” Park said. He also believes the federal government is using a sledgehammer approach to the problem.

Others in the pharmaceutical industry believe it boils down to simplicity. They say its easier for the DEA to target the large pharmaceutical manufacturers such as McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, than to go after every doctor and patient that’s abusing the system.

NewsChannel 3 contacted DEA officials in Los Angeles and Washington. They denied the allegations.  “We have no mandates or ratio regulations that would force a supplier such as McKesson to withhold its drugs,” Sarah Pullen with the DEA in L.A. told me by phone. She then referred me to their Washington field office when I asked if the DEA was putting any political pressure on the drug manufacturers. “We don’t involve ourselves in business decisions.  We enforce the Controlled Substances Act, that’s it,” said Rusty Payne DEA spokesman in Washington, D.C.

NewsChannel 3 also contacted McKesson for a comment. However, the written response did not address any of our questions. Kristin Hunter, a spokeswoman for McKesson issued the following statement: “McKesson does not fill prescriptions for controlled substances but is one of hundreds of pharmaceutical distributors nationwide. As a pharmaceutical distributor, McKesson complies with laws concerning the monitoring and distribution of controlled substances to customers.”

KEYT NewsChannel 3 also contacted Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen for comment, but our calls were not returned.

4 Responses

  1. Somebody’s lying, but yet that doesnt make sense they’d want the pain meds totally removed from the market because then they wouldnt have a job, so what is their motive? Other than they can

  2. This really is wrong to make innocent people who never asked for the life of a chronic pain sufferer to pay the price in pain because the War on Drugs is a failure.
    This story sickens me leaving this person to suffer, its not just the suffering its going cold turkey without the pain meds that once made life livable, this should be a crime to leave suffering people to suffer even more.
    odubma is the worst president we ever had , he sickens me .

  3. happy thanksgiving all as i sit n rock in pain thanks for not letting me get my meds thanks for not letting me go an put my father to rest thanks for letting my family suffer because i suffer having a script from a docter means nothing anymore whats the point this is wrong on so many levels thanks dea thanks walgreens thanks obumma thanks for nothing

  4. What do ya’ll think of this?

    “On December 10, 2013, it was announced that Cardinal Health would team up with CVS Caremark, which would form the largest generic drug sourcing operation in the United States. The venture was named Red Oak Sourcing and began operations in July 2014.” Wikipedia

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