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Tag: opioids

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

Joe Rannazzisi (Photo grab from 60 Minutes)

By Allan Lengel

For the first time since the awards were given in 2008, a former, rather than current federal law enforcement official has been named 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 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

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

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

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

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. 

DEA Agents Wearing Protective Gear to Avoid Fentanyl Exposure

About 30,000 pills laced with fentanyl were discovered by the DEA. Photo via DEA.

About 30,000 pills laced with fentanyl were discovered by the DEA. Photo via DEA.

By Steve Neavling

The ever-growing opioid crisis that claims thousands of lives a year also is becoming increasingly dangerous for law enforcement agencies, including the DEA.

More police and DEA agents are becoming hospitalized because of exposure to fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid that is many times stronger than heroin.

NBC New York reports that law enforcement is relying more protective gear than ever to avoid exposure.

“Whereas heroin can kill you in milligrams, fentanyl can kill you in micrograms,” said Gary Tuggle, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s agent-in-charge for Philadelphia.

The DEA has responded by increasing safety protocols that require agents to wear bulletproof vests, a breathing apparatus and fully enclosed suits.

“What you’re seeing here is the Level A suit, which is the highest level,” DEA Special Agent Pat Trainor said.

Other Stories of Interest

DEA: 30+ People Died in County in Arizona from Counterfeit Painkillers

Synthetic opioid tablets

Synthetic opioid tablets laced with fentanyl.

By Steve Neavling

The DEA said more than 30 people died in Maricopa County in Arizona from counterfeit oxycodone pill laced with fentanyl.

The county confirmed 32 deaths from black-market pill between March 2015 to February 2017, the Arizona Republic reports

The DEA said the counterfeit pills were manufactured in Mexico and smuggled into the U.S.

“What we have is a rapidly expanding opioid-based drug addiction in the country, and we have Mexican drug cartels adjusting to push dangerous drugs on streets,” said Doug Coleman, special agent in charge of the DEA in Arizona. “…They think they’re taking oxy, but they’re actually taking fentanyl, and it’s lights out.”

Other Stories of Interest

Foundation for Economic Freedom: DEA’s War on Painkillers to Blame for Many Deaths

pillsBy The Foundation for Economic Freedom
Value Walk

Many of these deaths result not from painkillers, but from the DEA’s war on painkillers.

Heroin overdose rates doubled in 28 states between 2010 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A record-breaking 28,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2014. In 2000, the age-adjusted drug overdose death rate was 6.2 per 100,000 persons. By 2014, it had more than doubled, to 14.7, according to the CDC.

What happened?

The truth is that many of those deaths are completely preventable and result not from painkillers, but from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s war on painkillers.

This week, the Senate is likely to pass the 21st Century Cures Act. Among other things, it allocates $1 billion to help states “combat heroin and painkiller addiction and recovery.” Policymakers would be wise to make sure that states don’t use that $1 billion to make the problem worse.

Who’s Taking Opioids?

Marine corporal Craig Schroeder served in Iraq. In the so-called “Triangle of Death” region, south of Baghdad, a makeshift-bomb explosion left him with traumatic brain injury. Schroeder returned home with a broken foot and ankle and a herniated disc in his back. He suffers from chronic pain in addition to hearing and memory loss.

And the regulations keep coming.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that half of all troops who return from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from chronic pain.

To read more click here.

Other Stories of Interest