“America’s opioid epidemic is so bad it’s causing average life expectancy to drop,” reported vox.com in September. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that he typical American was expected to die a little earlier in 2015 than 2014, due to a dramatic rise in drug overdose deaths. Opioid overdoses in particular subtracted about two and a half months from life expectancy at birth.
At the height of one of the deadliest epidemics in U.S. history, in April 2016 the U.S. Congress acted to weaken aggressive U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The new law makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies, according to internal agency and Justice Department documents. The freezing of shipments was a powerful weapon that the DEA used to immediately prevent drugs from reaching the street.
“For years, some drug distributors were fined for repeatedly ignoring warnings from the DEA to shut down suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills, while they racked up billions of dollars in sales,” reported the Washington Post in October in an article entitled “The Drug Industry’s Triumph Over The DEA.” It called the law a “crowning achievement” of an extended, multi-million-dollar campaign by the drug industry. Between 2014 and 2016, drug companies spent more than $106 million in support of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act and other bills.
”To get Congress to pass a bill to protect their interests in the height of an opioid epidemic just shows me how much influence they have,” Joseph T. Rannazzisi, who ran the DEA’s division responsible for regulating the drug industry until he was forced out in 2015, told the Washington Post. DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge John J. Mulrooney II wrote, “At a time when, by all accounts, opioid abuse, addiction and deaths were increasing markedly,” the new law “imposed a dramatic diminution of the agency’s authority.”
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