According to the Washington Post, in April 2016, at the peak of the single deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress passed a controversial bill that stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of one of its most effective tools against large drug companies accused of spilling prescription narcotics onto the streets. Overdoses are at an all-time high—and now we’re less equipped to prosecute those responsible.
A few members of Congress, allied with major drug distributors, surpassed the DEA and the Justice Department and agreed to a more industry-friendly law. The DEA had opposed the effort for years. It weakened enforcement efforts, giving more power to doctors and pharmacists peddling narcotics to the black market.
Previously, drug distributors had been fined for ignoring warnings from the DEA to shut down suspicious sales, but the new law makes it impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies.
Few lawmakers knew the impact the law would have, and so it passed quite easily through Congress with unanimous consent. Top officials at the White House and the Justice Department have not commented on how the bill came to pass, though some have commented they deferred to the DEA. The DEA and Justice Department have denied or delayed more than a dozen requests under the Freedom of Information Act for public records that could shed light on the decision.
“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,” DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge J. Mulrooney II wrote in a draft 115-page article provided by the Marquette Law Review editorial board. He wrote that it is now “all but logically impossible” for the DEA to suspend a drug company’s operations for failing to comply with federal law, the Washington Post notes.
“This is an industry that’s out of control. If they don’t follow the law in drug supply, and diversion occurs, people die. That’s just it, people die,” he said. “And what they’re saying is, ‘The heck with your compliance. We’ll just get the law changed.’ ”
Source: Washington Post