DEA Knowingly Gave Addicts and Drug Dealers Licenses to Prescribe Opioids—Fueling the Epidemic

dea

As thousands of Americans die each year from opioid overdoses, an independent investigation into the Drug Enforcement Agency’s conduct has found that it has been issuing controlled substance licenses to drug dealers, drug addicts, convicted felons and dead people, which is just one of the many things that have fueled the current crisis.

The investigation, which was conducted by the Daily Caller, noted that in 2006, only 510,000 individuals and organizations held controlled substance licenses. As of March 2018, that number had increased drastically to 1.7 million licenses. According to the report:

One dentist, for example, admitted to helping “an outlaw motorcycle gang” manufacture methamphetamine in the early 2000s, which resulted in two years of jail time, a DEA document said. He’d previously been caught with meth several times and admitted to “a history of substance abuse with alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine.

That same dentist was given a license to prescribe controlled substances in 2012. A doctor was also given a license, in 2009, even though he had previously had a run-in with the DEA when he was caught distributing cocaine.

A doctor was caught distributing cocaine in 1981 but wasn’t prosecuted because he cooperated with authorities, another DEA document shows. He was arrested again in 2001 with cocaine and two prescription drugs — an opioid and a minor tranquilizer — and pleaded guilty to related charges in 2003.

While the total number of DEA licensed providers exceeds 1.4 million people, it appears as though the agency is not doing its due diligence when it comes to regulating how opiates are being diverted from distributors directly to the street-corner drug dealers. The Office of Diversion Control, as it’s known, is the DEA department that is tasked with policing when opiates are being diverted from legitimate uses to nefarious ones.

The pipeline runs from the pharmaceutical company’s production line, through distributors into pharmacies and further down to drug dealers. But it seems as though they are not doing their job. The investigation found that licenses are also held by both people who have died and people who are in prison:

More than 760 people of the then-1.4 million registered with the DEA “were potentially ineligible” for licenses because the Social Security Administration reported them as dead, they did not have state-level permission to prescribe or distribute controlled substances or “were incarcerated for felony offenses related to controlled substances.”

Some of the DEA’s license holders did not even provide a social security number making it impossible to conduct a background check prior to the license being issued.

…nearly 700 Social Security numbers in the DEA’s database were registered to multiple names or variations of names, “which can be a risk indicator of potential fraud,” the report showed.

Instead of supplying the required social security number, some applicants listed an employer identification number:

Another nearly 42,000 entries in the DEA’s database listed an employer identification number rather than a Social Security number, the GAO found, which makes it more difficult to conduct background checks and prevent fraudulent identities.

It is not as if the DEA is underfunded and cannot police the pharmaceutical industry or even its own licensing loopholes. In 2013, the agency took in $ 328 million in licensing fees. There is more than enough money to hire agents and investigators to oversee the distribution and diversion crimes being committed.

But according to last year’s former DEA Office of Diversion Control executives, who blew the whistle in an explosive report, little to nothing is being done. As the whistleblowers allege, Big Pharma is writing policy for the DEA to protect its distribution network. Not only has Big Pharma placed its lawyers within the agency, but former DEA agents now work for Big Pharma in an incestuous pool that is controlling the opiate supply chain.

Joe Rannazzisi, former head of the Office of Diversion Control for the DEA, uncovered how one West Virginia town of 3,000 people had been shipped 21 million opioid pills but was stymied into not being able to do anything about it.

“This is an industry that’s out of control. What they wanna do, is do what they wanna do, and not worry about what the law is,” Rannazzisi told 60 Minutes. “And if they don’t follow the law in the drug supply, people die. That’s just it. People die. This is an industry that allowed millions and millions of drugs to go into bad pharmacies and doctors’ offices that distributed them out to people who had no legitimate need for those drugs.”

After Rannazzisi exposed the diversion pipeline in West Virginia, as well as other diversion hot spots, the former DEA executive said Congress passed a law making it nearly impossible for anyone to do anything about it. It is called the “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act,” which was passed in 2016 and signed into law. He said top DEA officials, along with Big Pharma lobbyists, helped draft the law—further shielding their profits from DEA fines for diversion infractions.

The new law makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies,” Rannazzisi said.

Rannazzisi resigned shortly after the law’s passage but he did not stay silent. Unfortunately, it is now up to the American people to take on the opioid crisis head-on. The will of the people must be changed in order for Big Pharma’s death grip over the population to be released. The only hope, it seems, for people to end their addiction to opiates lies, ironically, in another substance the DEA has classified as more harmful than opiates—Marijuana.

As The Free Thought Project has reported, doctors in Boston have over an 80 percent success rate ending opiate and heroin addiction using concentrated forms of cannabis. Until cannabis is made legal nationwide, opiate-addicted Americans will continue to seek out their drugs, which the DEA is all too complicit in supplying.

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The Free Thought Project

A Brief, Blood-Boiling History of the Opioid Epidemic

The scale of the overdose epidemic is hard to fathom. In 2016, overdoses claimed 64,000 lives—more than the US military casualties in Vietnam and Iraq combined. The origins of today’s crisis, a perfect storm of potent, easily accessible opioids, trace back to aggressive pharmaceutical marketing and liberal painkiller prescribing in the 1990s and 2000s. Here’s how it happened:

1970s: Percocet and Vicodin are introduced, but physicians are wary of prescribing them because of their addictive qualities.

1995: The American Pain Society promotes the “Pain Is the Fifth Vital Sign” standard, urging doctors to monitor pain along with pulse, breathing, blood pressure, and temperature. Purdue Pharma is one of 28 corporate donors.

The home page of Partners Against Pain, a promotional website created by Purdue Pharma in 2000

Internet Archives

1996: Purdue Pharma debuts OxyContin with the most aggressive marketing campaign in pharmaceutical history, downplaying its addictiveness. Over the next five years, the number of opioid painkiller prescriptions jumps by 44 million.

1997: Arthur Sackler, whose family owns Purdue Pharma, is posthumously inducted into the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame for “bringing the full power of advertising and promotion to pharmaceutical marketing.”

1998: Purdue distributes 15,000 copies of “I Got My Life Back,” a promotional video featuring a doctor saying opioids “do not have serious medical side effects” and “should be used much more than they are.” It also offers new patients a free first OxyContin prescription.

An OxyContin patient in Purdue Pharma’s “I Got My Life Back”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/YouTube

2001: The Joint Commission, a nonprofit charged with accrediting hospitals, promotes the now familiar 0-10 pain scale and begins judging hospitals based on patient satisfaction with pain treatment. The commission and Purdue team up on a guide for doctors and patients that says, “There is no evidence that addiction is a significant issue when persons are given opioids for pain control.”

2002: US doctors prescribe roughly 23 times more OxyContin than they did in 1996; sales of the drug have increased more than thirtyfold.

Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin

Pureradiancephoto/Getty

2004: With input from a Purdue exec, the Federation of State Medical Boards recommends sanctions against doctors who undertreat pain.

2007: Three drug distributors—McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen—make $ 17 billion by flooding West Virginia pharmacies with opioid painkillers between 2007 and 2012, according to a subsequent Pulitzer Prize-winning Charleston Gazette-Mail investigation.

2009: The Joint Commission removes the requirement to assess all patients for pain. By now, the United States is consuming the vast majority of the world’s opioid painkillers: 99 percent of all hydrocodone and 81 percent of oxycodone.

Fatal doses of heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil

Kensington Police Service

2010: Cheap, strong Mexican heroin makes its way to American rural and suburban areas. Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act offers addiction treatment coverage to many Americans for the first time. Annual OxyContin sales exceed $ 3 billion.

2012: Health care providers write 259 million opioid painkiller prescriptions—nearly enough for every American to have a bottle of pills. The increasingly white face of addiction changes how policymakers frame the problem, from a moral failing necessitating prison time to a disease requiring treatment.

2013: Fentanyl, a painkiller up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, starts to make its way into the heroin supply. Most of it is illicitly produced in China.

2015: Seizures of fentanyl have multiplied by fifteenfold since 2013. About 12.5 million Americans report misusing painkillers; nearly 1 million report using heroin.

Michelle Holley holds a photo of her daughter, Jaime, who overdosed in 2016.

Lynne Sladky/AP

2016: An estimated 64,000 Americans die of drug overdoses—more than all US military casualties in the Vietnam and Iraq wars combined. In December, Congress passes legislation allotting $ 1 billion to fund opioid addiction treatment and prevention efforts over two years.

2017: President Donald Trump declares a public health state of emergency, which opens up a fund of just $ 57,000. The GOP tries repeatedly to repeal Obamacare, a move that would take away addiction treatment coverage for an estimated 3 million Americans.

Crime and Justice – Mother Jones

The Opioid Epidemic Is Devastating. It’s Also Really Expensive.

The opioid epidemic, which each year claims more lives than the entirety of American deaths in the Vietnam War, is also a growing financial burden.

According to a new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the epidemic cost the nation $ 504 billion in 2015—about 2.8 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. And that figure has likely increased substantially, as 2016 brought a 21 percent increase in overdose deaths.

The estimate is more than six times higher than previous estimates, largely because it includes the cost of lost productivity of those who died of overdoses—a standard practice for evaluating public health problems as federal agencies determine which issues to prioritize. It also used more recent overdose figures and accounted for both prescription and illicit drug use. Last year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers pegged the cost of prescription drug abuse in 2013 at $ 78.5 billion.

“A better understanding of the economic causes contributing to the crisis is crucial for evaluating the success of various interventions to combat it,” read the report, noting that the council plans to research the cost of proposed and actual solutions to the epidemic.

President Trump has repeatedly acknowledged the need to address the epidemic, which, he said Monday, is “ravaging so many American families and communities.” The president declared a public health state of emergency last month, but stopped short of allocating new funding to address the epidemic. Meanwhile, repealing Obamacare would cut insurance coverage for an estimated 2.8 million Americans suffering from addiction disorders.

Crime and Justice – Mother Jones