Americans are dying from overdoses of opioid-based pain killers at alarming rates, and Obama is to blame. Since assuming office, he has acted to protect the producers and distributers, by hand-cuffing the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in their enforcement efforts. An investigative report by the Washington Post over the weekend gives the details of how this happened.
Since 2000, deaths from opioids have increased steadily — overtaking those from drunk driving around 2010 — with over 14,000 people dying in 2014 (the last year which the CDC has posted statistics, which do not include deaths from heroin overdoses). The Post, as part of a series highlighting the human side of this new opium war, produced an investigative report on the take-down of enforcement efforts, begun shortly after Obama entered the White House. (In their coverage, the Post staff can’t bring themselves to actually name Obama, only mentioning (pot) Holder once, and this article, while appearing in print on Sunday, October 23, was not featured on the home page of their wider-circulation website.)
As the death-rate increased, in 2005 the DEA created the Office of Diversion Control (ODC), targeting the “diversion” of legally-produced drugs to the black market, focusing on the distributers, the middle-men between the producers and the pharmacies. After winning their first case against a small California distributer — eventually forcing it out of business — the ODC set its sights on two “biggies,” the Fortune 500 companies of McKesson and Cardinal Health. In 2008, the DEA won a $13 million conviction against McKesson, followed by a $34 million case against Cardinal Health. In 2010, according to court records, the agency had filed 115 “charging documents,” including 52 immediate suspension orders. That’s when the trouble began.
According to Joseph Rannazzisi, director of the ODC in 2011, the DEA was on the verge of going to court with what he called “the case of my dreams” — targeting Cardinal Health for huge over-shipments to four Florida pharmacies, including two CVS stores — when he received “an unexpected phone call” from James H. Dinan, then Eric Holder’s no. 2 man, chief of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces program at the DOJ (the official “parent” of the DEA). Eventually, Rannazzisi was summoned to a February 2012 meeting, where some of the administration’s highest enforcers — including Dinan; then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole; his chief of staff, Stuart Goldberg; and DEA chief counsel Wendy Goggin — just short of Obama, himself, tried to force him to cease and desist in his case against Cardinal Health.
While CVS was eventually forced to pay a $22 million fine in this case, Cardinal Health, although settling, has not been fined. For his tenacity, Rannazzisi lost his job in 2015. The Post says that court records have now identified 13 companies which “knew or should have known that hundreds of millions of pills were ending up on the black market.” Total filed cases began dropping immediately in 2011, and “surrender of licenses” which held steady through 2015, have dropped by 30% so far this year.