Author: Justin Mckibben
Earlier this week we talked about a story that shook things up in politics as a former DEA agent threw some serious accusations at the Big Pharma industry, Congress and a number of key officials for their involvement in policies some believe helped create the enduring opioid crisis in America. Among those accused of tipping the scales in favor of Big Pharma and stripping power away from those charged with regulating the industry was Republican Representative Tom Marino.
Of course, we know that Tom Marino was President Donald Trump’s top nominee to be the nation’s drug czar.
Now, after withdrawing from the nomination to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Tom Marino says he is proud of his role in writing a 2016 law that many critics say paved the way for the current epidemic.
The Tom Marino Factor
What kind of role did Tom Marino have in the creation of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act? Why is it that so many are up in arms about the bill in the first place?
To recap- Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee introduced a bill to the House. It was advertised to officials as a way to ensure that patients had access to the pain medication they needed. In a statement released by Marino’s office, he claims the law would help “facilitate a balanced solution” by ensuring access to certain medications while allowing the Drug Enforcement Administration to prevent the sale and abuse of prescription drugs.
In essence, Tom Marino was supposedly pushing for a way to let pain management patients still get the useful medications they needed, without impeding on the process of curbing abuse.
But that isn’t how everyone sees it, especially after the 60 Minutes story.
Why it Matters
According to the opposition, the bill ultimately did little else besides weaken the DEA and the government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids in suspicious shipments.
For years prior to the passage of the “Marino Bill” some big-time drug distributors were getting fined thousands of dollars for repeatedly ignoring DEA warnings to shut down suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills. These companies were racking up billions of dollars in sales while turning a blind eye to obnoxious overprescribing of dangerous drugs.
Back then the DEA was able to immediately prevent drugs from reaching the street by freezing suspicious shipments. If the DEA judged that the drugs posed an “imminent danger” to a community, they could take action to prevent the flood of powerful narcotic medications from overwhelming the area.
However, the Tom Marino bill is argued to make it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies. Now, the agency is required to demonstrate that a drug distributor’s actions represent “a substantial likelihood of an immediate threat,” which officials say is far more difficult criteria to meet. The report against the Tom Marino bill even cited internal DEA and Justice Department documents and an independent assessment by the DEA’s chief administrative law judge.
The DEA even fought the bill, according to people within the agency, but in 2015 the law gained momentum again when the Justice Department named a new chief of the DEA- Chuck Rosenberg. After some reluctance, the report on 60 Minutes that included exclusive insight from Joseph T. Rannazzisi states the DEA ultimately took a deal they did not want.
Champion for Big Pharma
Marino disputed that, calling the reports “false accusations and unfair reporting.”
Tom Marino spent years pushing versions of this bill through Congress. He argued that it was to put an overly-aggressive DEA in check and protect drug companies from what he believed was unfair or misguided federal interference. In other words, he spent a lot of time fighting for Big Pharma’s ability to send millions of pills to communities that didn’t have half the population to justify them. All because the DEA was being aggressive?
The irony here is that the same people who pushed so hard for drug distributors ability to traffic obscene among of pills without the pesky DEA would probably be the same people demanding mandatory minimums for low-level drug offenders on the streets.
And again, many are still suspicious of those involved in pushing for this kind of legislation because of their connections to Big Pharma industry. The Post reports that the drug industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, including Tom Marino.
Some reports indicate the Big Pharma industry poured more than a million dollars into election campaigns, including Marino’s, who received nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions from political action committees supporting the drug industry.
Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch calls the report “complete baloney” after it gained serious momentum earlier in the week.
Why are we not surprised? Because Hatch himself has received hundreds of thousands in donations from Big Pharma companies and health contributors over the years.
Holding Big Pharma accountable for their contribution to the opioid epidemic has become an increasingly popular cause. Lawyers and politicians at all levels have been pushing to put a spotlight on the shady side of the pharmaceutical industry. Now it seems that spotlight may extend more and more to exposing the politics that allow these issues to spread.
Another crucial element to putting an end to the opioid epidemic is providing safe and effective treatment for those who need help the most. A lot of people are still out there suffering because of prescription drug abuse or other dangerous substances. But we want to help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Ever since the true nature of the opioid epidemic in America began to come to light, and people started to see the gravity of its impact in communities across the country, there have been plenty of efforts to find out how we ever got this far. We continue to ask who should be held accountable. Was it the black market drug trade? Was it the synthetic opioids coming from overseas? How did it get this bad?
Just this past week 60 Minutes and The Washington Post joined forces to interview Joe Rannazzisi, who is said to be the most important whistleblower ever on 60 Minutes.
Joe Rannazzisi is a former agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who ran the Office of Diversion Control; the department in charge of regulating and investigating the pharmaceutical industry. He is a former DEA deputy assistant administrator with a law degree, and a pharmacy degree, who believes the great injustice done to the American people cannot go overlooked.
Bad Business with Big Pharma
Through this inside look with Rannazzisi, he implicates Big Pharma drug makers in willingly distributed hundreds of millions of drugs to rogue pharmacies and pain-clinics-turned-pill-mills for over two decades.
Rannazzisi believes that the Big Pharma companies, some even multi-billion, Fortune 500 companies, have contributed to the problem by ignoring the truth; that powerful prescription pain medications were being diverted from doctors, clinics and pharmacies for illicit use. In the interview, Rannazzisi calls out a number of key drug makers, including:
He also calls out the three largest drug distributors:
- Cardinal Health
Saying they control probably 85%- 90% of drugs “going downstream.”
In fact, Rannazzisi said the way pain clinics seemed to pop up overnight all over the country made the whole crack-cocaine epidemic look like nothing, saying he had never seen anything like it, adding:
“These weren’t kids slinging crack on the corner. These were professionals who were doing it. They were just drug dealers in lab coats.”
Rannazzisi says after prosecuting pain doctors and pharmacists didn’t seem to put a real dent in the problem, he knew he had to work his way up; they went after distributors.
While drug distributors tried to defend themselves saying it was all on the doctors for over-prescribing medications, Rannazzisi says they know exactly how many pills are being sent out. Under the Controlled Substances Act, these distributors are required by law to report and stop what the DEA refers to as “suspicious orders”.
So what might “suspicious orders” look like? Probably something lie unusually large and/or frequent shipments of opioids being made to a location. Kind of like what was happening all over the nation for years and years.
For example, just one pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia ordered 9 million hydrocodone pills in just over 2 years. That’s for a town of only 392 people. That’s over 11,479 pills a person each year! Almost 1,000 pills a month! From only one of the town’s pharmacies.
DEA investigators say many drug distributors ignored the DEA requirements and shipped anyway.
DEA Fighting Back
Rannazzisi wasn’t the only DEA agent to speak up about Big Pharma’s bad business. Several other DEA veterans say they saw thousands of suspicious orders and tried to fight the growing problem. Others said they tried on multiple occasions to get these companies to fix the issue, but they did nothing.
Eventually, in 2008 the DEA was able to hit some distributors with hefty fines for filing hundreds of suspicious orders, including:
- $13.2 million fine against the country’s largest drug distributor, McKesson
- $34 million fine against second-largest distributor, Cardinal Health
The fines for drug distributors over the last 7 years add up to around $341 million.
The High Rollers
In 2011, Cardinal Health attorneys called Rannazzisi’s boss at the Justice Department, who called Rannazzisi and pressed for an explanation for his policies. Rannazzisi believes that even after they had gone after small companies hundreds of times before, as soon as they went after the Fortune 500 drug makers, their power and influence started getting in his way.
Rannazzisi says that with these massive Big Pharma empires there was now money and influence being used to pressure top lawyers at the DEA to pursue a softer approach on penalizing drug distributors who broke the rules.
Former DEA attorney Jonathan Novak noticed that shocking shift in the way these kinds of cases were handled. Stating:
“These were not cases where it was black — where it was grey… These were cases where the evidence was crystal clear that there was wrongdoing going on.”
But suddenly the higher ups started to demand more and more evidence to stall the system. Fewer cases against Big Pharma companies were being approved, and road-blocks from Novak’s bosses seemed to pop up everywhere.
Novak also said he saw a huge migration of DEA lawyers switching sides to defend the drug industry in higher paying positions.
Taking it to Congress
While drug distributors started successfully stalling the progress of cases against them from the DEA, they also began to lobby Congress to get legislation that would destroy the DEA’s power over them.
Then one day Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee introduced a bill to the House that was promoted as a way to ensure that patients had access to the pain medication they needed. However, Jonathan Novak, who worked in the DEA’s legal office, claims that what the bill really did was strip the agency of its ability to immediately freeze suspicious shipments of prescription narcotics to keep drugs off U.S. streets.
The bill’s author… Linden Barber, a former employee of the DEA.
Congressman Tom Marino, along with Congresswoman Blackburn, later wrote the inspector general for the Justice Department, demanding that Rannazzisi be investigated for trying to quote “intimidate the United States Congress.” Even though this went nowhere, Rannazzisi was stripped of his responsibilities soon after.
Some former DEA agents believe that the Big Pharma industry not only used lobbying groups to donate money to politicians to get laws passed in their favor, but also to try and push Joe Rannazzisi out of his office.
In the end, the DEA signed off on the final version of the “Marino bill.” A senior DEA representative claiming that even though they fought to stop it, growing pressure from Congress and industry lobbyists forced them into a deal it did not want.
The bill was presented to the Senate in March of 2016.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the legislation in the Senate.
It passed by unanimous consent with no objections and no recorded votes.
It passed the House the same way, and President Obama signed it into law.
Where Are We Now?
This whole thing reminds you of the saying- if you can’t beat em, join em.
It would seem that’s exactly what a lot of DEA agents did after fighting a losing battle against powerful Big Pharma companies.
Since it all began, the pharmaceutical industry and law firms that represent them have hired at least 46 investigators, attorneys, and supervisors from the DEA, including 32 directly from the division that regulates the drug industry.
Remember that guy Linden Barber, who authored the bill that many say stripped the DEA of the power to go after Big Pharma companies? Well 3 months ago Cardinal Health, that second-largest drug distributor we were talking about that went after Rannazzisi through his boss, hired Linden Barber as the senior vice president!
Other former DEA agents and lawyers have gone on to take up so pretty prestigious positions working for drug companies, or law firms and other organizations working in the pharmaceutical industries best interest.
Joe Rannazzisi now consults with state attorneys general who have filed suit against distributors for their role in the opioid crisis.
Oh… and let us not forget Congressman Marino, who was just nominated to become President Trump’s new drug czar.
Remarkably, there are a lot of instances of people in the DEA being influenced by pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists to stand up for drug companies instead of the tens-of-thousands of Americans dying from opioids each year. In many of these instances, the individual’s go on to get high-earning jobs defending the interests of the Big Pharma industry.
So is it a made-up conspiracy? Or are pharmaceutical companies buying their way out of trouble at every turn and pushing out people like Rannazzisi who stand up to them? Is it really that hard to believe when you connect the dots?
With an ongoing opioid epidemic doing major damage to the country, we have to acknowledge everything that has contributed to this issue. Even if we set aside the idea of placing blame, we cannot prevent it from getting worse or happening again if we don’t acknowledge what helped cause it. Every drug company, policy maker, pharmacy, crooked doctor and individual should be accountable to taking action to make things better. It starts with accepting the issue and building a foundation to recover. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
So with the digital age and ‘Generation D’ taking drug dealing to new levels with social media and exploiting technology and apps to get away with criminal activity it only makes sense that law enforcement get familiar with the changes and innovations happening online and in social media. But when have they gone too far? Apparently the DEA is finding out, because they are catching a lot of heat for alleged Facebook fraud and identity theft.
DEA Does Damages
Sondra Arquiett is the alleged victim in this case of internet identity fraud, and she filed a $250,000 lawsuit against the DEA for reportedly creating a profile under her name. The DEA even went further into violating her rights by using photos stored on her personal cell phone, and even posting bogus status updates on the page about missing her boyfriend! Apparently the writers weren’t as good as ours. The monetary damages Arquiett is requesting are due to “fear and emotional distress” she suffered as a result since Sinnigen interacted with “dangerous individuals he was investigating.”
The part that makes this whole debacle even more of an outright mess is that Arquiett was in police custody the whole time! She originally arrested in July 2010 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine base. After her guilty plea Arquiett was sentenced to time served and given a period of home confinement, but the fake profile was reportedly created in between her arrest and guilty plea while she was detained.
The Justice Department has never denied that the DEA created a fake Facebook profile, but initially they claimed that these actions were justified because she “implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in…ongoing criminal investigations.” Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon confirmed in a statement two weeks ago that the incident is under review.
Fighting for Facebook Rights
That sentiment of Arquietts implicit consent is one which most privacy experts deeply and openly disagree with. Staff attorney Nate Cardozo at the civil liberties organization called Electronic Frontier Foundation stated,
“If I’m cooperating with law enforcement, and law enforcement says, ‘Can I search your phone?’…my expectation is that they will search the phone for evidence of a crime, not that they will take things off my phone and use it in another context. It’s [laughable].”
Joe Sullivan is Facebook’s chief security officer, and it seems he had sent a formal letter last week to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. In this letter Sullivan ordered the agency to abide by the same profile and privacy guidelines as any civilian user when it comes to being truthful about identity. Facebook cited that their policy clearly states users:
“will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.”
Taking into account the fact that even though the victim may have at one point given police permission to search her phone, and that she would assist in an ongoing investigation, it still goes far beyond that when the authorities manipulate her information and use her identity for their own means. As in the statement she had made in regards to her suite, if the DEA were in contact with dangerous individuals in the drug words and communicating on her behalf and then releasing her onto the streets, they are taking a huge chance of putter her at risk. Not to mention the simple fact that it is an absolute violation of privacy.
It is understandable that law enforcement and the DEA have to do all that they can to stay ahead of the game, and try and keep up with the evolving and changing strategies and technologies used by drug dealers and traffickers. That being said, I say Facebook is making the right move in taking a stand and sticking up for the customer, regardless of her criminal record or her involvement in drugs, she is a civilian and deserves her privacy. Setting stigma and strategic value aside, this woman should not be tagged and taken hostage on social media.
While the DEA and Facebook face-off for the protected privacy of the people using social media, there continues to be addicts and alcoholics on and off-line that need serious help. When a drug addict or an alcoholic seeks help for their affliction, there is always help out there, and in credited treatment programs their privacy is respected and protected. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Photo Credit: www.en.wikipedia.org
Teens in Washington are being told a new trendy drug will give them the high of a lifetime. Twenty overdose deaths across the country are connected to the drug called NBOMe, and its popularity is just beginning.
The official name for this drug is 25I-NBOMe and it is a man-made hallucinogenic drug and derived from the substituted phenethylamine psychedelic 2C-I. It was exposed in 2003 by chemist Ralf Heim at the Free University of Berlin, who printed his results in his PhD study. NBOMe effects typically last 6–10 hours if taken buccally or sublingually. When it is insufflated the effects can generally last 4–6 hours. Effects can however last considerably longer depending on quantity; periods longer than 12 hours have been reported.
NBOMe can also be vaporized and inhaled; this may cause suggestively faster effects and shorter duration as is expected from that method of administering the drug. This route of doing the drug is however not suggested, unless when using specific liquid amount. NBOMe has comparable effects to LSD, though users report more undesirable effects while high and more danger of harm following use as related to other common psychedelics. NBOMe is sold online and by word-of-mouth. Message boards and websites give actual how-to tutorials and offer ‘trip reports’.
Douglas James, DEA Assistant, Special Agent in Charge stated “These are dangerous chemicals. You are playing Russian roulette when you put these in your body.” The Drug Enforcement Administration banned the drug late last year, just as it was getting a base. “It’s starting to gain popularity, it is a dangerous drug. It’s more potent than LSD. It takes micrograms, not gram levels, to feel the effects.”
In Washington State last year, 10 recognized NBOMe overdoses were informed to the Poison Control Center. Most of the fatalities were just 15 and 16-years-old.”This drug, along with other designer drugs, are concerning to the DEA. I have three young daughters, these drugs are peddled to the youth of America,” James said. The 18-year-old ASU freshman Anthony Carlson of Scottsdale, Arizona collapsed to his death the day after taking the man-made drug. Carlson had put a small number of droplets of the drug in his nose. Along with coming in liquid form, it’s also sold as a powder and in edible substances. Carlson bought it from a guy he met. Another Scottsdale’s teen died in a related overdose death earlier that year, also.
The DEA took what it refers to as an astonishing step, and as a matter of crisis the agency added NBOMe to its list of Schedule 1 controlled substances in November. Schedule 1 drugs have no presently established medical use, have a high possibility for abuse, and are the most hazardous of all drugs on the DEA’s drug schedules.
All of these new drugs and substances that today’s youth have started using are crazy to me. When I was in active addiction, all I wanted to do was get black-out drunk and do some prescription pills. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have tried these “new drugs” but it’s becoming an epidemic with how many people have been overdosing all over the country. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.
Most Mexicans can hardly believe that Mexican drug lord Chapo Guzman has been arrested. This chubby little man with a Super Mario mustache was trudged into a helicopter by a masked marine with a gloved hand firmly on his neck. El Chapo, Joaquín Guzmán, was the worlds most wanted and most elusive drug lord and shockingly enough, he has been captured.
Mr. Guzmán was arrested early Saturday in a hotel-condominium in Mazatlán, on the Pacific Ocean in Sinaloa, the Mexican state that is the center of his universal drug operation. Further straining belief, he was taken silently, without a gun fight. The government of President Enrique Peña Nieto has a victory to celebrate but also the huge challenge that comes with taking into custody someone so powerful and unsafe. No one knows what new violence may occur from the beheading of a multibillion-dollar crime set-up that ranges from the mountains of rural Mexico to hubs in Chicago and other American cities and beyond.
Though Mr. Guzmán had allegedly dissociated himself from day-to-day control of his massive operation, many feel sure that the octopus will grow another head and continue as before. There are rival cliques, like the Zetas, known for crazy viciousness and for escalating into human trafficking and extortion, which will certainly seek to seize advantage. There are other splinter narco-groups and the unidentified webs of influence among the government and businesses that will modify to the new reality. There are uncertainties whether the Mexican government will even be able to keep Mr. Guzmán locked up; he had already fled from one maximum-security prison, and he has shown a skill to conduct his businesses from within prison walls. There is already pressure to transfer Mr. Guzmán to the United States, where he faces numerous federal drug charges.
Though Mr. Guzmán has been famous, unreasonably, by balladeers singing of his cruel supremacy, there is certainly relief that he’s in custody. His arrest contradicts the sad certainty of the pessimists who said exploitation was so corrupt that Mr. Guzmán would never be caught. The arrest was made possible by the persistent determinations of Mexican marines and a small embedded team of American agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Marshals Service, reported Damien Cave in the Times. Mexico and the United States should not give up the effort to bring drug kingpins to justice even as the struggle gets more vicious, more drawn-out and more challenging.
There should be no misconceptions that one arrest means task accomplished. It was the United States that provided the greedy request for Mr. Guzmán’s merchandises, along with the currency and the weapons. Responsibility for the ongoing disaster that produced criminals like Mr. Guzmán belongs on both sides of our common border. We have much more to tackle to put a stop to all of the criminals in the drug world and if the United States continues to work with other countries, it could be very beneficial, in my opinion. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.