There have been over 200,000 thousand deaths from opioid over doses in the US. That is greater than the number of US military deaths in the Vietnam war. This article describes the efforts of the DEA to prevent the illegal dispersion of opioids by drug distributors and pharmacies in the US. It is a classic example of the government swamp that Trump promised to drain during his election campaign. Drug industry associations contributed over $106 million to reduce the ability of the DEA to stop the over-dispersion of opioids. At least 56 officials from the DEA, and the Justice Department to which the DEA reports, decided to earn more money by becoming lobbyists for the drug industry and some accepted executive jobs in the drug firms. This is the classic revolving door in which government officials take jobs as lobbyists or executives in firms that they had been responsible for regulating. Trump promised to stop that practice during his campaign. Instead he has nominated a member of the House, who sponsored a bill that has substantially limited the ability of the DEA to stop the flow of opioids to the street, to the top job in the DEA . The bill was written by a lawyer who had worked for the DEA division charged with monitoring the dispersion of potentially harmful drugs. It was a simple thing to do. Only a slight change in wording was necessary. The DEA had been able to stop the flow of dangerous drugs by declaring an imminent danger to society. The new bill approved by Congress, required the DEA to declare that the dispersion of opioids presented an immediate threat to an individual or society. That is an impossible hurdle for the DEA to satisfy. It has effectively preventing the DEA from doing its job. It is no longer able to deal with the dispersion of opioids or limit the number of opioids produced each year by the industry. The official who led the DEA efforts to fight against over dispersion of opioids was pushed out of his job.
The process by which Congress approved the new bill is well described in this article. Tom Marino, who represents a district in Pennsylvania that has a high incidence of deaths from opioid over doses, was the chief sponsor of the bill in the House. He was joined by Marsha Blackburn who represents a district in Tennessee that also has huge opioid overdose problem. She intends to run for the senate seat in Tennessee that is currently held by Bob Coker who is not running for reelection. They were joined by 14 House Republicans and two Democrats from the House. Their bill claims the intent to insure patient access to drugs and effective enforcement. Apparently, effective enforcement means zero enforcement given the language change in the bill. The bill was passed by unanimous consent with no debate in the House and the Senate. The DEA, under new management, did not oppose the bill.
One would think that the highly visible problem of deaths from opioids would cause Congress to take strong action against a problem in which the street price for 30 opioid pill is $900 because of high demand from addicts. That is not how our system works. The drug industry, employing commonly used tactics described in this article, was able to maintain the flow of opioids and industry profits with little regard for their victims.
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