Opioid abuse strikes chord Sunday’s “60 Minutes” episode that featured a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) whistleblower exposed what many people, including the lawyers at the national law firm of Pachman and Waichman LLP, that drug distributors are at fault for America’s opioid crisis.
Worse yet, DEA efforts to combat this vicious scourge were thwarted by several entities including Congress, drug lobbyists, and the drug manufacturing industry itself. According to the whistleblower, the drug distributions companies shipped more opioids to pain clinics and other healthcare professionals who were essentially well-dressed drug dealers.
This lead to Americans taking opioids to battle pain, but lead to heroin abuse and, in nearly 200,000 cases in 20 years, death by overdose.
Ex-DEA Agent Whistleblower featured in the “60 Minutes” Opioid Video
The whistleblower featured in the “60 Minutes” story is a man who was a lead investigator for the DEA. He holds a law degree and a degree in pharmacy. He knows about which he speaks. He told “60 Minutes” that the drug industry is responsible for the epidemic of overdoses Americans suffer on a daily basis. The whistleblower claims that these large pharmaceutical companies and conglomerates who manufactured the drugs in question like Oxycontin and Oxycodone shipped untold quantities of these pharmaceuticals to unscrupulous doctors and pain clinics. In turn, the so-called healthcare professionals distributed the drugs to people who had no legitimate reason to have a prescription for such powerful pills.
Ex-DEA Agent Whistleblower Claims Drug Companies Responsible For Oxycontin Epidemic
The whistleblower named the three largest companies that he believes are responsible for the crisis. These companies, according to the whistleblower, ship 85 to 90 percent of all opioid-based pills consumed in the U.S. today. He claims that these three companies are responsible for killing Americans by dealing drugs on America’s streets. Period. As far back as 2001, when Oxycontin and similar drugs became the subject of abuse, the drug companies’ representatives told Congress that there is no evidence to suggest that these potent pain medications were not dangerous and helped alleviate pain. Apparently, this testimony assuaged Congress’ fear.
Medical Professionals Overprescribing Opioids Like Oxycontin
Medical professionals began prescribing these pills like candy believing that they were safe and effective. All that did was create an entire population who became addicted to opioids. Once hooked, patients engaged in drug-seeking behavior. Drug-seeking behaviors lead people hopelessly addicted to pain meds to “pill mills,” or pain clinics run by unscrupulous doctors who would give the drug-seeking patient what they wanted: a prescription for more opioids. Pain clinics popped up all over the place. It grew to become a very profitable business.
However, it takes two, and sometimes three, to tango. Pharmacists had no incentive to check the problems emerging at their counters and filled the prescriptions. Of course, someone has to pay for these pills. The “60 Minutes” piece was relatively silent about the role of insurance companies in the epidemic, but there can be no debate that pharmacists did not distribute these pills for free.
Breakdown in the Federal Controlled Substances Act
The whistleblower insists that the DEA did its part to combat the problem. He told “60 Minutes” that he approved arrests and prosecutions for crooked doctors who were feeding the drugs to people in violation of U.S. law. Drug distributors must report suspicious orders according to federal Controlled Substances Act. Generally speaking, suspicious orders are large or frequent orders to the prescribers. Drug companies should have no problems complying with that requirement. Notwithstanding, the drug companies tried to blame physicians and other healthcare professionals who prescribed the drugs. How easy is it to figure out what a suspicious order might be? One pain clinic in a small West Virginia town (population 392) ordered 9 million painkilling pills in two years.
Drug Companies Turned to the DOJ to Stop DEA Fines and Pressure
The whistleblower tried to use whatever muscle he had to curb the drug companies’ tactics. The DEA fined the companies tens of millions of dollars, and they became fed up with the pushback from the DEA. As a result, the companies went to the top of the Department of Justice complaining that they received unfair treatment. The whistleblower said that the drug companies used money and influence to curtail the aggressiveness of the DEA. Soon after money entered the equation, lawyers at the top of the DEA began demanding more and more evidence to prosecute cases. Successes that the DEA once touted were now swept under the rug. The whistleblower said that at the worst time of during the opioid epidemic, prosecutions slowed down and the DEA bosses did not approve sanctions that the DEA could take, like freezing shipments. Clearly, someone got to them.
No one wanted to address the problem, or people’s hands were tied. So, more and more people became addicted and died. However, drug companies went a step further. They began lobbying Congress to change the law regulating pain medication shipments. In 2015, Congress considered legislation, and passed a bill, under the guise of allowing people in need of receiving pain medications to continue to receive them. The bill stripped the DEA of its power to freeze shipments, rendering the DEA’s most potent weapon against the war on drugs utterly ineffective.
The drug companies got their way but only after spending $102 million on lobbying costs while Congress considered the change in regulations. The bill passed both houses of Congress without opposition, and then President Obama signed the bill into law without fanfare. The president and the Congress simply chose money over people and turned a blind-eye toward one of the most significant health epidemics through which America has suffered. Drug overdoses have tripled from 1999 to 2015 according to the latest report authored by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
CDC Finds Opioid “Misuse” is a Direct Result of Over-prescribing of Opioid Painkillers
The CDC’s findings are not surprising. The overdose problem began in the late 1990s, at or around the same time prescription opioids hit the market designed to treat chronic pain. In 2008, the number of overdose death from prescription painkillers was greater than the total number of overdoses from heroin and cocaine combined. That changed in 2010. Since then the deaths attributed to heroin, synthetic opioids like fentanyl, and other substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine have climbed. The CDC found that people who have a heroin addiction were once addicted to prescription pills. Secondly, the CDC opines that drug “misuse” is a direct result of over-prescribing of opioid painkillers.
LEGAL HELP FOR USERS OF PRESCRIPTION OPIOIDS
The Opioid Lawsuit Attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are available to assist opioid users who have developed addictions as a result of being prescribed an opioid from your physician. Our firm offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call one of our experienced attorneys at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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