Former DEA Agent Speaks about Opioid Epidemic

Syringe, pills with drug vials in background

Former DEA Agent Speaks about Opioid Epidemic

Former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Joe Rannazzisi, who holds law and pharmacy degrees, gave insight to the nationwide opioid epidemic in an interview with 60 Minutes.

In 2001, drug companies assured doctors that opioids did not pose a threat to their patients and that addiction could be easily managed. “Addiction is not common, addiction is rare in the pain patient who is properly managed” (Purdue Executive to Congress). Since then, the opioid epidemic has claimed over 200,000 lives.

Rannazzisi accuses opioid distributors—some of them Fortune 500 companies—of intentionally ignoring the abuse of pain pills and continuing to fuel the opioid epidemic.

“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,” he said. Essentially, he said, these big companies knew they were distributing deathly drugs into American communities; while claiming to help patients, these companies were blatantly contributing to the opioid epidemic.

The DEA charged McKesson, the country’s largest drug distributor, with a $13.2 million dollar fine in 2008. That same year, they also charged Cardinal Health with a $34 million dollar fine—both companies had been filling millions of pills worth of suspicious orders. Since then, companies have been fined a total of more than $341 million by the DEA.

“16,651 people died in 2010 of opioid-associated overdoses,” said Rannazzisi. “This is not a game.”

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