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Pharmaceutical drug and medical product provider Cardinal Health’s website boasts, “Through every link in the chain of care, pharmacies, hospitals and clinics rely on us to improve quality, safety and productivity.” Today, those healthcare providers will have to look elsewhere, because the Dublin, Ohio-based company’s Lakeland, Florida, distribution facility is forbidden from selling and shipping controlled substances, which are potentially dangerous drugs, for two years as part of its settlement agreement with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

In February, the DEA accused Cardinal Health of selling “excessive amounts” of oxycodone to four Floridian pharmacies over the course of three years. This comes after paying a $34 million fine and closing three distribution facilities in 2008 for supplying internet pharmacies with “excessive amounts” of popular painkiller hydrocodone.

The Internet abounds with people asking questions like:

I was wondering if anyone knows any surefire ways to get prescribed pain meds in a hospital, ive [sic] heard of people pricking their fingers and putting drops of blod [sic] in their urine and saying it's kidney stones, anyone else have any methods to share??

Yet Cardinal Health never stopped to wonder why two CVS pharmacies located six miles apart in Sanford, FL, requested 3 million oxycodone pills – more than 20 times last year’s national average of 69,000 oxycodone pills. This year’s settlement agreement requires the company to review orders and visit pharmacies in an attempt to prevent misuse of narcotics like OxyContin, Ritalin, Vicodin, Valium and Klonopin.

The DEA also suspended two of the pharmacies’ licenses as part of its investigation. Hospitals, doctors and pharmacists are obligated to take precautions to prevent prescription and medication errors like filling a bottle with the wrong pills or filling that bottle with an incorrect number of pills. Still, a cursory Google search turns up thousands of results for pharmacies suspended for becoming “pill mills.”

So the question becomes: Should pharmacies’ and Cardinal Health’s violation of DEA regulations and federal law subject them to criminal prosecution like other drug traffickers involved in illegally distributing pain killers/controlled substances that result in addiction, crime and death?

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