The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrested 28 prescribers and pharmacists and revoked 147 licenses of individuals who handle controlled substances. The actions were taken as part of the agency's ongoing efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. 

For 45 days in February and March, "the DEA surged its enforcement and administrative resources to identify and investigate prescribers and pharmacies that dispensed disproportionately large amounts of drugs," DEA said.

"The ultimate goal of the surge was remediating or removing those whose actions perpetuate the controlled prescription drug crisis in America, particularly opioid drugs," the DEA said.

During the 45-day period, special agents, diversion investigators, and intelligence research specialists analyzed 80 million transaction reports from DEA-registered manufacturers and distributors, as well as reports submitted on suspicious orders and drug thefts and information shared by federal partners, such as the Department of Health and Human Services.

This led to the development of 366 "leads" to DEA field offices, 188 of which (51%) resulted in active investigations by the DEA's 22 field divisions. "DEA will use every criminal, civil, and regulatory tool possible to target, prosecute and shut down individuals and organizations responsible for the illegal distribution of addictive and potentially deadly pharmaceutical controlled substances," Acting DEA Administrator Robert W. Patterson said in the statement.

Targeting the Darknet

Also this week, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) announced results of a 4-day nationwide law enforcement operation, called Operation Disarray, which targeted vendors and buyers of opioids and cocaine on the Darknet.

The 4-day operation was the first coordinated action by the new Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team. J-CODE is an initiative announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January. It is aimed at targeting drug trafficking, especially fentanyl and other opioids, on the Darknet.

"Some of the deadliest drugs can be purchased with a few clicks of a button and ordered online. J-CODE coordinates our efforts to stop online opioid sales, and it is already getting results. Today, we announce the first nationwide J-CODE operation, one that led to the arrest of alleged traffickers across America," said Sessions.

"Our work to combat drug trafficking has taken us from coast to coast and the darkest corners of the Web. The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis, and those of us in law enforcement must be relentless in our efforts to disrupt this illicit activity. We thank our partners in this operation; through J-CODE, we will continue to work together to target the sale of opioids on the Darknet," FBI Director Christopher Wray said.