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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, December 02, 2015 3:54 am

DEA investigating Marion VA clinic

Brian Francisco | Washington editor

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has been inspecting purchases of painkilling drugs by the Veterans Affairs medical center in Marion.

The DEA referred questions about this week’s audit to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana.

"It’s a routine administrative inspection," office spokesman Ryan Holmes said Tuesday.

Holmes said the DEA regularly inspects medical providers and pharmacies, including VA facilities, as part of its drug diversion program.

In its application for an administrative inspection warrant, the DEA said it seeks to verify "the correctness of records, reports, or other documents" at the Marion medical center.

Christopher Menzie, acting public affairs officer for the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, said the DEA described its review as "a regulatory compliance inspection."

"They show up with some agents and a warrant and they say, ‘We’d like to see this or talk to this person,’ " Menzie said. He said VA officials have been cooperating fully with the DEA.

Indianapolis TV station Fox59 first reported the Marion inspection Monday night.

"There have been no arrests or allegations of wrongdoing, but the DEA wants to know why the hospital is ordering such large quantities" of pain medication, the station reported.

The Fox59 report cited a DEA inspection warrant document stating that the Marion medical center has been buying more narcotic painkillers than the VA medical center in Fort Wayne and that purchases of hydrocodone have increased this year at both facilities. The medical centers are operated by the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System.

Menzie told The Journal Gazette that "the numbers seem high" because the Marion and Fort Wayne medical centers often fill prescriptions through their own pharmacies rather than using the VA’s nationwide mail-order prescription system. He also said the Marion pharmacy serves military veterans from a large area.