Opioid epidemic: ex-DEA official says Congress is protecting drug makers

 

The Guardian Reports-

Joseph Rannazzisi accuses lawmakers of putting US pharmaceutical companies’ $9bn-a-year trade in opioid painkillers ahead of a public health crisis

A door is painted with a message on a street in a neighborhood with a high rate of illegal drug use on 14 October 2016 in New York City.
A door is painted with a message on a street in a neighborhood with a high rate of illegal drug use on 14 October 2016 in New York City. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A former top Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official has accused Congress of putting pharmaceutical company profits ahead of public health in the battle to combat the US’s prescription opioid epidemic.

Joseph Rannazzisi, head of the DEA office responsible for preventing prescription medicine abuse until last year, said drug companies and their lobbyists have a “stranglehold” on Congress to protect a $9bn a year trade in opioid painkillers claiming the lives of nearly 19,000 people a year.

Rannazzisi, director of the agency’s office of diversion control for a decade, said the drug industry engineered recent legislation limiting the DEA’s powers to act against pharmacies endangering lives by dispensing disproportionately large numbers of opioids. He also accused lobbyists, who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to influence opioid legislation and policy, of whipping up opposition to new guidelines for doctors intended to reduce the prescribing of the painkillers with a close resemblance to heroin.

“Congress would rather listen to people who had a profit motive rather than a public health and safety motive,” said Rannazzisi. “As long as the industry has this stranglehold through lobbyists, nothing’s going to change.”

The former DEA official, who is a pharmacist, was particularly scathing about politicians he said claim to be at the forefront of fighting the opioid epidemic while doing the bidding of the pharmaceutical industry in Congress.

“These congressmen and senators who are using this because they are up for re-election, it’s a sham. The congressmen and senators who are championing this fight, the ones who really believe in what they’re doing, their voices are drowned out because the industry has too much influence,” he said.

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