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DEA accuses Sunrise company of supplying painkillers to 'pill mills'

A Sunrise company surrendered its license to sell narcotic medications after a federal agency accused it of improperly supplying painkillers to South Florida clinics, officials said Monday.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration suspended Sunrise Wholesale Inc. from selling controlled substances on June 10, saying in an order that the company had supplied excessive amounts of the narcotic painkiller oxycodone to so-called pill mills operating in questionable ways.

It's the second drug distributor suspended as part of a federal, state and local crackdown on South Florida's pain clinics. The same day, the DEA in Detroit halted oxycodone sales at a Michigan company, Harvard Drug Group, which has an office in Tamarac.

The DEA spokesman in South Florida, David Melenkevitz, declined to comment on the Sunrise Wholesale suspension other than to confirm it had happened.

"There's not much I can say about it," Melenkevitz said. "We've got a lot of things going on with pill mills right now. This is not our time to be out waving the flag."

Another DEA official said Sunrise Wholesale, opened in April 2008 by owner Steven Sternberg, surrendered its DEA license rather than contest the suspension.

Company officials referred questions to Sternberg. He could not be reached for comment despite several attempts by phone.

The DEA's accusations regarding Sunrise Wholesale's sales to pain clinics were not available. But Harvard Drug filed documents in federal court to contest its suspension, including a copy of the suspension order.

The order said Harvard Drug sold more than 13 million doses of oxycodone over two years to pain clinics and others in Florida engaged in "suspicious" activity.

That includes 814,000 doses to American Pain, Executive Pain and a third Palm Beach County clinic co-owned by brothers Christopher and Jeffrey George, which were raided by federal agents in March. No arrests have been made.

Bob LaMendola can be reached at blamendola@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4526.

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