News investigation reveals that DEA stripped of power by Congress taking millions from drug maker lobbiests

Big Pharma Knows How Laws Work and They Can Use Them Against the DEA

 Why did Congress, in the middle of the greatest drug crisis in the nation pass a law that stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its ability to sue companies violating drug distribution laws? The answer Massive millions of dollars contributed by lobbiests for the drug manufacturers and distributors and a unbridled propaganda campaign written and implemented in part by former DEA lawyers who went to work for private law firms representing the drug companies. The worst of American politics and lack of morality. These are the fact based conclusions of a joint 60 minutes and Washington Post investigation into the passage of a bill called “The Marino Law.”

The Undercutting Law

According to the investigation,Congress joined forces with the big pharma.  They passed a law that undercuts the DEA when pursuing cases against the pharmaceutical industry.  The paper says that law was a campaign by the drug industry to weaken DEA enforcement efforts.  The DEA claims that big pharma is supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who help feed the opioid crisis.  The investigative article by the Washington Post says the drug industry worked with lobbyists and donated millions to members of Congress to ensure the law would pass. According to the articleRep. Tom Marino, a Republican from Pennsylvania, spent years moving the law through Congress.  It finally passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, lent Marino a hand in rewriting the bill.  The law itself was signed by then President, Barack Obama and is called the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act.  Critics agree it’s controversial passage led to Rep. Marino pulling out of consideration to be President Donald Trump’s “Drug Czar”. According to the Post, in the past, the DEA was able to prosecute and penalize some big pharma companies for repeatedly ignoring warnings to shut down suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills.  Now, the DEA maintains that this new law makes it virtually impossible for the department to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies.

Political action committees representing the drug industry donated at least $1.5 million to the 23 lawmakers who sponsored the various versions of the bill. There’s a lot of finger pointing when it comes to the opioid crisis that has claimed millions of lives throughout the U.S.  Big pharma industry officials blame the overprescribing of pain pills by doctors.  They also like to point out that the DEA approves the total amount of opioids produced each year.  They defend the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act as an effort to ensure that pain patients receive their medication on time and without disruption.  The drug industry claims older federal prescription drug laws were too vague and that the DEA never effectively communicated with their industry.

The DEA, on the other hand, did not target doctors and pharmacists but took an approach that targeted drug companies.  They used the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, under which, companies are required to report unusually large or “suspicious” orders.  If the companies violated those terms they faced fines and seizure of the narcotics.

DEA Lawyers Switching Sides for big bucks

The Washington Post investigation also highlights complacency on former members of the DEA not just Congress.  The article says that in the years before the controversial law was passed, over 50 members of the DEA left to go work for big pharma companies.  They claim that this was pivotal in the writing of the law and ultimately made it possible for the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act to pass.Those DEA members aren’t the only ones to take a job within large drug companies.  Just seven months after the bill became law, Rep. Tom Marino’s chief of staff took a job as a lobbyist with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.With people “in the know,” from drug enforcement officers to those who write the laws, switching sides amid the drug crisis, it’s unclear where the legal side of the fight goes from here.

Jeffrey A. Newman represents whistleblowers: 1-800-682-7157