Federal agents launch surprise drug inspections of NFL teams

Source: Washington Post.com

Federal agents conducted surprise inspections of National Football League team medical staffs (yesterday)…which entailed bag searches and questioning of team doctors by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)… (They) were (acting) on the suspicion that NFL teams dispense drugs illegally to keep players on the field in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

(A) class-action lawsuit…filed by more than 1,300 retired NFL players…allege(s) that NFL medical staffs regularly violate federal and state laws in plying their teams with powerful addictive narcotics such as Percocet and Percodan, sleeping pills such as Ambien, and the non-addictive painkiller Toradol to help them play through injuries on game days.

Players described being given unlabeled medications in hazardous combinations, teams filling out prescriptions in players’ names without their knowledge, trainers passing out pills in hotels or locker rooms, and medications handed out on team planes after games while alcohol was consumed.

Federal law prohibits anyone but a physician or nurse practitioner from distributing prescription drugs, and they must meet myriad regulations for acquiring, storing, labeling and transporting them. It is also illegal for a physican to distribute prescription drugs outside of his geographic area of practice. And it is illegal for trainers to dispense, or even handle, controlled substances in any way…

In August, the DEA toughened the rules for prescribing and storing hydrocodone, requiring that it be kept in special lockers and making refills much harder to obtain…Any facility where prescription drugs are dispensed must have a proper pharmacy registration and maintain effective security over controlled substances. The law also requires a complete and accurate record of each pill that is received, sold, delivered or otherwise disposed of.

A 2010 study of 644 league veterans from the Washington University School of Medicine found that retired NFL players misuse opioids at a rate more than four times that of their peers. A significant percentage reported either overusing painkilling opioid drugs within the past 30 days: taking the drugs without a prescription, or both.

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