- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The Drug Enforcement Administration created “an imminent danger to public health or safety” by suspending a wholesaler’s license to sell controlled drugs, a federal judge in Louisiana has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote handed down a temporary order late Tuesday to return the license and any confiscated drugs to Morris & Dickson Co. LLC of Shreveport, which has customers in Louisiana, Texas and 15 nearby states.

The company has a good chance of proving DEA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, said Foote’s order, handed down after a hearing Tuesday.

The judge scheduled a hearing for May 22 on whether to grant a preliminary order. She also gave the DEA until noon Thursday to provide all of the information the agency’s acting administrator used to suspend Morris & Dickson’s license on May 2.

The company was back to full operation Wednesday, President Paul Dickson said in an emailed statement.

The ruling “means that tens of thousands of patients, many of whom are critical care, are able to get their desperately needed medications,” he said.

During the seven-hour hearing Tuesday, Dickson testified that sales had dropped 14 percent since the DEA suspended its license, and his company would go under within days if it couldn’t resume sales, The Times reported . He said he employs 800 people, nearly all in Louisiana and Texas.

A DEA news release last week said agents learned in October that Morris & Dickson was selling large amounts of oxycodone and hydrocodone. Some independent pharmacies were buying more of those drugs than were being bought by nearby pharmacy chain stores, it said. It said some monthly orders were 10 times the Louisiana average.

DEA records indicated that Morris & Dickson Company had not filed any suspicious order reports on any of the pharmacies in question in Louisiana,” the agency wrote.

According to The Times report, Dickson testified that an outside company reviews purchase orders and customer profiles and reports possibly suspicious orders. Most large orders turn out to be clerical errors, he testified.

Morris & Dickson’s niche clientele means that it doesn’t make sense to compare orders with chain stores in the same ZIP code, he said.

Lawyers for the DEA and the U.S. Department of Justice said Morris & Dickson had reported only three suspicious opioid orders since 2014, which they called surprisingly few.

Dickson testified that his company had dropped nearly 140 clients it considered high risk before 2014. And he said that at the time of the suspension, a former DEA official now acting as a consultant was already working to improve the company’s program to monitor suspicious drug orders.

The DEA’s suspension was the first time in 177 years that any government agency had taken enforcement action against the company, Dickson said in his statement.

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