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DEA updates ARCOS Online Reporting System to help distributors check fraudulent purchases of prescription pills

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has incorporated a new feature in its ARCOS Online Reporting System that will allow the 1,500 manufacturers and distributors enrolled with the DEA to check the number of competitors who have sold a controlled or scheduled substance to a customer in the past six months. ARCOS is an extremely vital tool devised by the DEA to mitigate the deadly effects of the opioid crisis. It tracks the flow of prescription drugs in real time through all its commercial channels right from manufacturing to wholesalers/intermediaries/distributors and finally the dispensary or the retail outlets where these drugs are finally sold. Any anomalies or bulk orders can be tracked online.

As per the current DEA regulations, it is mandatory for all distributors to “know their customer” and raise a red flag whenever a suspicious order is involved. With the help of the new feature, it becomes easier for the distributors to keep a track of their supply and report any discrepancy. It can improve the dialogue between the distributors and pharmacies by closely working toward the shared objective of curbing the opioid crisis.

Role of distributors in opioid crisis

The opioid epidemic is perhaps the worst public health crisis to have hit America in recent times. Unfortunately, it shows no signs of abating. While many have been penalized for their role in the drug crisis, including the Big Pharma companies, doctors and pill mill owners who have lost their licenses or have been jailed, the intermediaries or the distributors had escaped censure until last year. The current feeling is that that distributors have played an important role in fanning the opioid crisis, and they could have prevented the crisis by taking appropriate steps in time. As per the DEA, the distributors are “accountable for preventing the diversion of controlled and abused prescription drugs, including the opioid painkillers.”

The agency turned vigilant and major wholesalers were caught in 2017 for failing to report suspicious orders and violating the Controlled Substance Act. For example, McKesson Corp., one the largest distributors in the United States, struck a deal to pay a civil fine of $150 million and Cardinal Health reached a $44 million settlement with the federal government in 2016. In addition, state-level battles against illegal practices are also being fought. These states have alleged that the distributors failed to prevent the supply of drugs, even when data from sales explicitly indicated that medications were going into the wrong hands. Many also concealed that their drugs had addictive properties and continued to aggressively market them, “and turned patients into drug addicts for their own corporate profit.”

The distributors are important in the supply chain. According to a former employee of DEA, Frank Younker, “They’re like the quarterback. They distribute the ball.” Any leak from their end could hamper the hard work done by all those who have been fighting tooth and nail to fight the opioid epidemic.

Taking charge of one’s life

While the DEA had upped its vigilance, the distributors have also formed an Allied Against Opioid Abuse (AAOA) for educating all those in the prescription drugs supply chain about the implications of opioid misuse and how it can be prevented. They believe that awareness and education are crucial in preventing the crisis from spiraling further. The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) officer, John Parker, said that they were aware of the tragic implication of the opioid epidemic. “We are deeply engaged in the issue and are taking our own steps to be part of the solution.”

A million innocent lives have been lost to prescription drugs already and the need of the hour is for everyone involved, whether it be advertisers, distributors, doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement, judiciary or families, to be extra vigilant to take action and save lives.

If you know someone who is abusing any drug or a prescription painkiller, help them by connecting them to the 24/7 Recovery Helpline experts. They can assist you or your loved one in finding the best drug rehab help centers in the country. You can also call our 24-hour drug helpline (855) 441-4405 or chat online with an expert to know more.

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