DEA and distributors will share controlled-substance distribution data

Regulation enables better coordination of where opioids are going


It has been a long-sought goal of US wholesalers to obtain some guidance from the Drug Enforcement Administration on “suspicious” orders of controlled substances. By knowing, for example, that one pharmacy or healthcare facility was ordering large quantities of such drugs from multiple wholesalers, each would know that they need to look more closely into a buying pattern that each wholesaler might not be aware of. Under the Arcos (Automated Reports and Consolidated Orders System) program, DEA was collecting such data; but rather than making it available in some form to wholesalers, DEA held each responsible for maintaining its own suspicious-order monitoring (SOM) system, and self-reporting to DEA when a pattern emerged.

Now, DEA has enhanced the Arcos Online Reporting System to “allow DEA-registered manufacturers and distributors to view and download the number of distributors and the amount … each distributor sold to a prospective customer in the last available six months of data.” The sales data is anonymized in weight and dosage units. The change is one of the elements of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, passed last October, to address the current opioid misuse epidemic.

“HDA and its distributor members look forward to continued collaboration with DEA and other stakeholders as the SUPPORT Act is implemented, and we continue to seek forward-looking solutions to end the nation’s prescription opioid abuse epidemic,” said John Gray, CEO of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, in a statement.

Today, wholesalers have a fat bullseye painted on their backs as multiple lawsuits work their way through the court systems across the country; there have been multiple accusations that wholesalers did too little to control the flow of opioids over past decades. Also, for years, DEA has been filing charges against wholesalers (and some chain pharmacies) over lax SOM controls. The hope is that, at least going forward, there will be better coordination between the distributors and law enforcement.