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Tag: opioids

Combating Opioids And Reemergence of Cocaine, Heroin Is Priority for New Head of FBI’s Pittsburgh Office

Bob Jones, new head of the Pittsburgh Field Office

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The opioid crisis and the revival of cocaine and meth in Pennsylvania and West Virginia is the focus of the new head of the FBI’s Pittsburgh office.

Bob Jones, who recently took over the office, said law enforcement has made a dent in the sale of heroin and prescription painkillers, but the crisis if far from over.

“We’ve been knocking opioids down a little bit, but people are turning to other drugs,” he told the Tribune Review.

Jones also is concerned about the troubling reemergence of cocaine and meth and said the opioid epidemic “is still killing people.”

A native of the Pittsburgh area and graduate of Penn State University, Jones said he has “been trying to come back for the last 32 years.”

DEA Creates Omaha Division Office, In Part to Battle Opioids

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The DEA is establishing an Omaha Field Division, its 23rd division office in the nation.

The division will include Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“In January, DEA reorganized its field divisions for the first time in nearly 20 years. Today, just five months later, we are adding another new field division,”  Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “That’s because we are facing a drug threat today the likes of which we have never seen before—but we are rising to the challenge. The Omaha Division will help us address the methamphetamine and opioid threat in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The people of these states can rest assured that, in the face of an unprecedented crisis, we are taking steps to be more effective and put the traffickers and crooked doctors where they belong—behind bars.”

“This action converts the existing Omaha District Office into a division in an effort to enhance DEA enforcement efforts within the Great Plain states region and unify drug trafficking investigations under a single Special Agent in Charge,” said DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson.

Opinion Piece: DEA Has No Clue What It’s Talking About When it Comes to Pot and Opioids

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He is the co-author of the book, Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? and the author of the book, The Citizen’s Guide to State-By-State Marijuana Laws. This piece appears in The Hill.

By Paul Armentano
For The Hill

Is state-level medical cannabis access mitigating or fueling America’s opioid crisis? Testifying before Congress last week, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) acting administrator Robert Patterson claimed the latter. But when he prompted to provide evidence in support of the agency’s position, he acknowledged that he could not.

His failure to substantiate this claim is unsurprising. That is because numerous peer-reviewed studies show that increased cannabis access is associated with declining rates of opioid useabusehospitalizations, and mortality. Among patients enrolled in state-sanctioned medical marijuana access programs, participants’ use of not only opioids, but also their use of numerous other prescription medications — such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs — declines significantly.

To read the full piece click here.

Retired DEA Official Joe Rannazzisi Named ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year For 2017

Joe Rannazzisi (Photo grab from 60 Minutes)

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

For the first time since the awards were given in 2008, a former, rather than current federal law enforcement official has been named ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year.

Joe Rannazzisi, a retired DEA deputy assistant administrator with a law degree and a pharmacy degree, has been named Fed of the Year for 2017, the result of his persistent and ongoing crusade against dangerous opioids and his criticism of Congress for protecting manufacturers.

As head of the Office of Diversion Control for the Drug Enforcement Administration, he led the crusade to clamp down on doctors, pharmacies, drug manufacturers and distributors.

He was aggressive, resulting in some of the biggest companies paying huge fines for failing to report suspicious orders. Not everyone was pleased.

He clashed with Congress, which he felt wasn’t being tough enough on drug companies. Some Congress members came after him, and in 2015, under pressure, he retired.

But that didn’t stop him from speaking out.

In October, he appeared in the Washington Post and on “60 Minutes” to tell his story how the DEA’s war on opioids got derailed by pressure from Congress and the drug industry.

He’s also a consultant for a team of lawyers suing the opioid industry.

His efforts in the battle against the opioid epidemic, particularly in light of the powerful opposition on Capitol Hill and from the drug industry, makes him worthy of the award, which is based on outstanding public service.

Previous recipients of the ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year award include: Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (2008):   Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009), Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010);  Thomas Brandon, deputy Director of ATF (2011); John G. Perren, who was assistant director of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Directorate (2012); David Bowdich, special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Los Angeles (2013);  Loretta Lynch, who was U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn at the time (2014); John “Jack” Riley,  the DEA’s acting deputy administrator (2015) and D.C.  U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips (2016).

 

DEA: Biggest Opioid Distribution in U.S. History ‘Hijacked’ by Federal Lawyers

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A painstaking, two-year investigation into the biggest opioid distribution case in U.S. history yielded what investigators said was solid evidence that the company had failed to report suspicious orders of highly addictive painkillers.

But instead of bringing big penalties to the first-ever criminal case against a drug distribution company, the nation’s largest company, McKesson Corp., top attorneys at the DEA and Justice Department intervened, striking an agreement that was “far more lenient than the field division wanted,” according to the Washington Post

“This is the best case we’ve ever had against a major distributor in the history of the Drug Enforcement Administration,” said Schiller, who recently retired as assistant special agent in charge of DEA’s Denver field division after a 30-year career with the agency. “I said, ‘How do we not go after the number one organization?’ ”

Schiller called the intervention “insulting.”

“Morale has been broken because of it,” he added.

Helen Kaupang, a DEA investigator and supervisor for 29 years who worked on the McKesson case in Denver, minced no words: “Within the ranks, we feel like our system was hijacked.”

The Post wrote:

The result illustrates the long-standing conflict between drug investigators, who have taken an aggressive approach to a prescription opioid epidemic that killed nearly 200,000 people between 2000 and 2016, and the government attorneys who handle those cases at the DEA and the Justice Department.

None of McKesson’s warehouses would lose their DEA registrations. The company, a second-time offender, had promised in 2008 to be more diligent about the diversion of its pills to the street. It ultimately agreed to temporarily suspend controlled substance shipments at four distribution centers and pay a $150 million fine.

DEA to Open New Office to Combat Prescription Painkiller Abuse

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA is opening if first new field office in nearly 20 years in an effort to combat prescription-opioid abuse.

The DEA’s 22nd office will be based in Louisville, Kentucky, where prescription painkillers have been especially problematic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday.

USA Today reports that at least 90 federal drug agents will be redeployed to the Louisville office to open a new front on the battle against prescription painkiller abuse. 

“I know that this crisis is daunting,” Sessions said, referring to government estimates that 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year. “But we can, and we will turn the tide.”

Congressional Committee Threatens DEA with Subpoena Over ‘Pill Dumping’

pillsBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Growing impatient with the DEA dragging its feet on the opioid epidemic, members of the Energy and Commerce Committee are threatening to subpoena the agency for information on “pill dumping” in West Virginia.

Chairman of the committee, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., blasted the DEA for its failure to fully respond to a May 8 request for data on drug suppliers sending millions of opioids into the state, the Hill reports

“Enough is enough. Will you, on behalf of the DEA, commit today to producing the documents and information we requested, and soon? Or do we simply need to issue a subpoena? Because we are done waiting,” Walden said to DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator Neil Doherty at a hearing. 

West Virginia has been at the center of the opioid crisis, leading the nation in drug overdose deaths.

Drug suppliers pumped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills into the state in six years, according to an investigation by the Charleston Gazette-Mail. 

Joe Rannazzisi, the Former DEA Official and Whistleblower Who Fought the Abusive Drug Firms

Joe Rannazzisi  on "60 Minutes"

Joe Rannazzisi on “60 Minutes”

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Joe Rannazzisi isn’t a household name, but he’s certainly getting well known, particularly after his appearance on Sunday on CBS’ s “60 Minutes,” where he was referred to as a whistleblower who tried cracking down on drug companies.

Scott Highham and Lenny Bernstein of the Washington Post write:

Joe Rannazzisi  is a man of strong passions who admits that he has a temper. For more than a decade, he was the frontman in the government’s war against opioid abuse. As head of the Office of Diversion Control for the Drug Enforcement Administration, he was responsible for cracking down on doctors, pharmacies, drug manufacturers and distributors who did not follow the nation’s prescription drug laws.

He said he worked hard to uphold the law, until he was pushed out by members of Congress and an industry campaign that he says has resulted in a weakening of the nation’s drug laws at a time of unprecedented crisis.

The burly, tough-talking Long Islander is now a man in the news, appearing in The Washington Post and on “60 Minutes” this Sunday to give his views on how the DEA’s war on opioids got derailed by pressure from Congress and the drug industry.

To read the whole story click here.