Former deputy assistant administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency Jo Rannazzisi blamed the “out of control” pharmaceutical industry for the opioid crisis plaguing the country, stating their role, along with the actions of Congress and lobbyists, were responsible for allowing the situation to escalate. Rannazzisi shared his thoughts on “60 Minutes” and even named some specific companies he deemed responsible.
As reported by Axios, Rannazzisi stated, “This is an industry that’s out of control. What they want to do, is do what they want to do, and not worry about what the law is. And if they don’t follow the law in drug supply, people die. That’s just it. People die.”
Rannazzisi even identified which companies were likely playing the largest role in the opioid crisis based on their level of distribution. He said, “The three largest distributors are Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. They probably control 85 to 90 percent of the drugs going downstream.”
He also called out the drug distribution industry, saying, “These weren’t kids slinging crack on the corner. There were professionals who were doing it. They were just drug dealers in lab coats.”
Rannazzisi also spoke regarding the impact of lobbying on Congress, specifically a decision that limited the DEA’s ability to intervene. He stated, “[T]he drug industry – the manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and chain drug stores – have an influence over Congress that has never been seen before. And these people came in with their influence and their money and got a whole statute changed because they didn’t like it.”
The decision he was discussing occurred in April 2016, when Congress weakened the DEA’s ability to freeze suspicious drug shipments, making it easier for opioids to hit the streets.
According to a report by CBS News, opioid overdoses have led to the deaths of 188,000 people since 2015.
Since Congress has changed the law, the DEA has taken action against fewer opioid distributors, down from 65 drug companies, doctors and pharmacies in 2011 to just six during 2017. Over approximately the past two years, no suspension orders have been issued against a distributor, though the DEA said it is using “all the tools at our disposal to combat this epidemic.”