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Daily Caller Investigation Lays Opiate Crisis at Feet of DEA

by Derek Gilna

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) has contributed to the opioid crisis by more than tripling the number of individuals and organizations licensed to distribute controlled substances in the past 12 years, according an investigation by The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Daily Caller website. In 2006, the number of licensed dispensers was 510,000, but by 2018, the number had ballooned to 1.7 million.

In that same period, the number of individuals who have died from opioid overdoses has skyrocketed to thousands a year and been described as an epidemic by the U.S.

However, perhaps the federal government should look more closely at the policies and practices of the DEA, which has provided licenses to many questionable individuals.

Included in the licensees, according to the Daily Caller, was a dentist, who said he had provided opiates to an “outlaw motorcycle gang,” despite previous brushes with the law for drug-law violations. It also reported the DEA “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.”

Another physician, who distributed cocaine in 1981, escaped prosecution by turning informant, but continued his criminal activities, and after another arrest in 2001 was tried and jailed in 2003.

How has the federal agency charged with controlling the flow of illegal drugs found itself at the center of the controversy? Apparently the Office of Diversion Control, which is tasked with policing the diversion of opiates from legitimate applications to illegal ones, has dropped the ball.

As pharmaceutical companies ramp up drug production, the number of drugs flowing into the streets has increased exponentially. As noted by the Daily Caller, “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.”

As Joe Rannazzisi, who formerly headed the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control and discovered the drug industry had shipped 21 million opioid pills to a West Virginia city with a population of only 3,000, said, “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. And if they don’t follow the law in the drug supply, 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,” he told 60 Minutes.

However, the drug industry was able to get a law passed, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, which guarantees that the gusher of drugs will continue and “makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies,” Rannazzisi said.   It is time to bring this scandal to a halt. 


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