Hold Drug Distributors Accountable For Opioid Crisis, Senator Says

By Victoria Kim 03/08/17

Senator Claire McCaskill believes the DEA is not doing enough to go after negligent drug distributors for their role in the opioid crisis. 

Senator Claire McCaskill
Senator Claire McCaskill Photo via YouTube

You could say the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose in the U.S. is at a boiling point. The government has dedicated millions of dollars to fixing the problem, and corrupt medical professionals have been de-licensed, and even incarcerated, for illegally profiting off the powerful pain pills.

But drug distributors—who purchase prescription drugs from manufacturers and then distribute them to pharmacies, hospitals, and the like—often pass under the public’s radar. As the middle men of prescription drugs, distributors are in a unique position to be able to detect suspicious shipments that may end up being diverted to the black market. 

But for years, distributors ignored the warning signs of prescription drug diversion, failing to fulfill their legal obligation to prevent pills from ending up on the black market. And worse, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) isn’t doing enough to go after negligent distributors, says U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.

The Missouri senator sent a letter this week (March 6) to Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, outlining the distributors’ role in the growth of the opioid epidemic. “This epidemic has arisen, in part, from the failure of opioid distributors to monitor the flow of hundreds of millions of painkillers to pharmacies across the United States—and then to the black market,” wrote McCaskill.

She cited recent settlements with two distributors, McKesson and Cardinal Health, calling the million-dollar penalties paid by the companies “too little, too late.” 

By the time McKesson paid the government $150 million in January and Cardinal paid $44 million last December for failing to report suspicious prescription drug orders, they were already among a number of distributors who filled thousands of suspicious orders without reporting them. (This wasn’t the first time both distributors paid millions for similar infractions.)

“We have situations where we’ve discovered that millions of opioid doses were being delivered by distributors in illegal and suspicious circumstances, and the government’s response was either too little or too late,” said McCaskill. “This is a matter of life and death and I want to know whether or not we could have done more.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr