‘We feel like our system was hijacked’: DEA agents say a huge opioid case ended in a whimper

Summary and Analysis…

This report from the Washington Post and 60 Minutes presents detailed claims by former DEA agents that a potentially ground-breaking case against the nation’s largest drug company was abandoned in favor of a virtual slap on the wrist — a $150 million dollar fine and some temporary restrictions on four distribution centers for a company with revenues of “almost $200 billion a year.”

The percentage of fine is significantly less than a 1% fine on McKesson’s revenue. To put that in perspective, it is the same percentage as slapping a drug dealer who made a quarter of a million dollars selling drugs with a fine of $187.50.

Significantly, the company involved, McKesson Corp. was a “second time offender” and had “promised in 2008 to be more diligent about diversion of its pills to the street.”

The article adds another facet to understanding how the current drug epidemic was created. However, even more important, it provides additional reasons why we must exercise extreme caution when opening up new avenues for broad, community-based distribution of opioids such as those used in Medication-Assisted Treatment.

Excerpted from The Washington Post

After two years of painstaking investigation, David Schiller and the rest of the Drug Enforcement Administration team he supervised were ready to move on the biggest opioid distribution case in U.S. history.

The team, based out of the DEA’s Denver field division, had been examining the operations of the nation’s largest drug company, McKesson Corp. By 2014, investigators said they could show that the company had failed to report suspicious orders involving millions of highly addictive painkillers sent to drugstores from Sacramento, Calif., to Lakeland, Fla. Some of those went to corrupt pharmacies that supplied drug rings.

The investigators were ready to come down hard on the fifth-largest public corporation in America, according to a joint investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.”

Instead, top attorneys at the DEA and the Justice Department struck a deal earlier this year with the corporation and its powerful lawyers, an agreement that was far more lenient than the field division wanted, according to interviews and internal government documents.