The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” released a report this weekend revealing how Congress and pharmaceutical companies deliberately allowed the opioid crisis in America to worsen by passing a law that crippled the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to combat the epidemic. The opioid epidemic itself has resulted in over 200,000 deaths in the past two decades, a number which continues to increase.
The effort succeeded in April 2016 when Congress passed the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, which the DEA had fought for years. The law makes it much more difficult for the DEA to freeze suspicious drug shipments by making the criteria for such actions more stringent. The effect is immediately visible – the DEA has issued only six suspension orders this year, compared to 65 in 2011.
The DEA’s troubles began far before 2016, however. In 2013, Jim Geldhof, the Detroit DEA program manager, discovered that Miami-Luken, a medium-sized Ohio-based drug distributor, had shipped 11 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone to Mingo County, West Virginia, which has a population of 25,000. Of those, 258,000 were shipped to one pharmacy in Williamson, which has a population of 2,924. West Virginia has the highest opioid death rates in the nation. However, Geldhof’s attempts to suspend Miami-Luken’s shipments were unsuccessful as he was dismissed by the company and lawyers.