WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal judge on Tuesday upheld the Drug Enforcement Administration's decision to prevent two Florida CVS pharmacies from selling controlled substances because of alleged lax enforcement of restrictions on a powerful painkiller.
Judge Reggie Walton denied the stores' request for a preliminary injunction against the DEA at a hearing. Last month, the pharmacies won a temporary order blocking the suspension.
The DEA had issued suspension orders against the Orlando-area CVS pharmacies and their supplier, Cardinal Health's Lakeland, Fla.-based center. The agency said the pharmacies were dispensing the painkiller oxycodone far in excess of legitimate needs.
Walton already allowed the DEA to go forward with suspending Cardinal. But a federal appeals court put that suspension on hold while it considers the case. CVS is also appealing Walton's ruling against it.
At Tuesday's hearing, a CVS lawyer argued that the stores had taken steps to reduce oxycodone, such as retraining pharmacists, leading to an 86 percent reduction of oxycodone prescriptions late last year.
But a Justice Department lawyer countered that the numbers were still too high. And she said that DEA officials had warned the stores about their distribution practices in meetings in 2010 and last year. She said that pharmacists were "flagrantly ignoring" guidelines meant to curtail illegitimate prescriptions.
- Reggie Walton