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Prescription Drug Control: DEA Has Enhanced Efforts to Combat Diversion, but Could Better Assess and Report Program Results

GAO-11-744 Published: Aug 26, 2011. Publicly Released: Sep 26, 2011.
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The Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Diversion Control Program is responsible for enforcing the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and ensuring the availability of prescription drugs such as pain relievers and stimulants while preventing their diversion for abuse. The CSA requires entities handling controlled substances--such as manufacturers, pharmacies, and physicians, among others-- to register with DEA, which conducts regulatory investigations of registrants, as well as criminal investigations. GAO was asked (1) how DEA manages diversion investigation efforts, and (2) how DEA ensures policies and procedures are followed for investigations and the extent to which it determines the results of its efforts. GAO reviewed DEA policies and procedures, and interviewed DEA, state, and local officials at eleven locations which were selected on the basis of volume of cases handled, geographic diversity, and other considerations. These observations are not generalizable, but provided insights on DEA operations.



Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Drug Enforcement Administration In order for DEA to better determine to what extent its efforts are decreasing diversions and to inform future program decisions, the Administrator of DEA should strengthen the agency's performance measurement for the Diversion Control Program by reassessing its set of performance measures for the program to identify ways to enhance the measures and their link to the program outcome goal of reducing diversion.
Closed – Implemented
In August 2011, we reported that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) established performance measures for its Diversion Control Program to assess and report on progress toward meeting the performance goal of reducing the diversion of licit drugs. However, we found that the chosen set of measures did not clearly demonstrate the extent to which DEA's additional efforts and investigations in recent years have had an effect on the diversion problem. As a result, we recommended that DEA reassess its set of performance measures for the Diversion Control Program to identify ways to enhance the measures and their link to the program outcome goal of reducing diversion. For the program's fiscal year 2015 Congressional budget justification submission, DEA included new and revised program performance measures such as adding an output measure titled "Number of Outreach/Public Education Events Completed (Overall)" and modifying other output measures such as breaking out the number of administrative sanctions taken separately from the number of civil fines imposed. DEA also reported that it is continuing to evaluate potential outcome measures for the program. These actions are consistent with our recommendation.

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Controlled substancesSubstance abuseInternal controlsInvestigations by federal agenciesLaw enforcementManufacturing industryPerformance measuresPharmaceutical industryPhysiciansPrescription drugsPolicies and procedures