Morris & Dickson Co., LLC is a pharmaceutical wholesaler based in Shreveport, Louisiana. It is one of the largest privately held wholesale drug distributors in the country. The company was founded in 1841 by Alexander Dickson and William Morris, and it has been in continuous operation for over 180 years.
It has since become the nation’s fourth-largest wholesale drug distributor, with $4 billion a year in revenue and nearly 600 employees serving pharmacies and hospitals in 29 states.
In October 2017, DEA became aware of the high-volume sales of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone from Morris and Dickson Company to five of the top ten purchasing pharmacies within the state of Louisiana. DEA records indicated that Morris and Dickson Company had not filed any suspicious order reports on any of the pharmacies in question in Louisiana.
A review of the purchases made by these high-volume independent pharmacies showed that these pharmacies were purchasing quantities which were not indicative of the pharmaceutical market. Not only were numerous “independent” retail pharmacies purchasing more Oxycodone and Hydrocodone than the largest chain pharmacies operating within the state, they were purchasing more narcotics than several of the largest chain pharmacies combined within the same zip code. In some instances, DEA noted these “independent” pharmacies were purchasing more than ten times the amount of narcotics the average Louisiana pharmacy purchased per month.
While Morris & Dickson wasn’t the only drug distributor who the DEA accused of fueling the opioid crisis, it was unique in its willingness to challenge those accusations in the DEA’s administrative court. In a scathing recommendation in 2019, Administrative Law Judge Charles W. Dorman said Morris & Dickson’s argument that it has changed its ways was too little, too late.
This month DEA announced it has suspended the DEA Certificate of Registration as a drug distributor pursuant to Title 21, United States Code, Sections 823 and 824. The DEA’s investigation of Morris and Dickson Company determined that the continued registration of this company constitutes a substantial likelihood of imminent danger to public health and safety. This action only applies to the distribution of controlled substances and will not affect non-controlled pharmaceutical drugs distributed by the company.
Morris and Dickson Company received written notice of the factual and legal basis for this action. In addition, they will be given the opportunity for an administrative hearing within the next 60 days. After the hearing, the DEA Acting Administrator will make a final decision on whether Morris and Dickson Company’s registration should be permanently revoked.
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in the 68-page order that Morris & Dickson failed to accept full responsibility for its past actions. Milgram specifically cited testimony of then-president Paul Dickson Sr. in 2019 that the company’s compliance program was “dang good” and he didn’t think a “single person has gotten hurt by (their) drugs.”
“Those statements from the president of a family-owned and operated company so strongly miss the point of the requirements of a DEA registrant,” she wrote. “Its acceptance of responsibility did not prove that it or its principals understand the full extent of their wrongdoing … and the potential harm it caused.”
In a statement, the company said it has invested millions of dollars over the past few years to revamp its compliance systems and appeared to hold out hope for a settlement.
“Morris & Dickson is grateful to the DEA administrator for delaying the effective date of the order to allow time to settle these old issues,” it said. “We remain confident we can achieve an outcome that safeguards the supply chain for all of our healthcare partners and the communities they serve.”
The DEA has been highly criticized in the delay it has taken to conclude this investigation.