Did the Drug Enforcement Administration Play a Role in the Opioid Crisis?

Published on Jan 23, 2020 at 8:28 pm in Opioid Abuse.

White pills on blue background

Think about where you live. Whether it’s a small town or a big city, how many pharmacies are in the immediate surrounding area? In Marion alone there are over ten pharmacies in a six mile stretch that serve a population of 17,762 people.

Though each pharmacy theoretically serves nearly 2,000 community members, is it necessary to have that many in one small area? Although the intent of pharmacies was originally to distribute necessary medicine to help people stay or get healthy, they’ve turned into distributors for seriously addictive painkillers.

In 2017, more than 191 million prescriptions were dispensed for opioids in the United States, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even though the CDC published guidelines for prescribing opioids, they haven’t always been used effectively, as shown through the opioid crisis that has developed in the country. From just 2017 to 2018, there was a significant increase in overdoses in Illinois, and the CDC reports that over 35% of all opioid overdoses are from prescription opioids.

Understanding What Led to the Opioid Crisis

Opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone are highly addictive medications used to treat extreme pain, as explained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Overdoses with these drugs happen when a person takes too much either because their usual dose is not relieving enough of their pain, or they are intentionally taking more to get high. According to the CDC, the most common overdose deaths are caused by prescription opioids that include methadone, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. Opioids are more commonly known by names like Percocet, OxyContin, and Vicodin.

Drug companies have drowned communities all over the nation with opioids for years in an attempt to treat chronic pain in patients, but the result was worse than imagined. In the mere 6 years between 2006 and 2012, it was revealed by the Drug Enforcement Administration database that companies distributed 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills. The quick influx of pills created an epidemic of people addicted to opioids.

Purdue Pharma is one example of a drug company who was marketing opioids as safe even though they knew how addictive the medications were. An article from The Washington Post exposes emails from within drug companies that show indifference to the opioid epidemic, making the companies complicit.

Companies have since stopped promoting opioid medications to distributors and doctors because of how addictive and harmful they’ve proved to be. Recently, pharmacies and drug companies are being sued for large sums because of the damage their products have caused, according to an article by NPR. But are the companies the only ones responsible for the wreckage?

How was the DEA Involved?

Since drug companies are partly responsible for the opioid crisis, the organization who regulates them, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), is also at fault here. The U.S. Department of Justice’s report shows that the DEA was slow to respond to the rise in prescription drug abuse, making them a partially guilty party.

According to that report, when conducting preregistration investigations on applicants registering to distribute opioids, the DEA did not perform background checks on all applicants. Instead, they relied on applicants to be honest and disclose pertinent information that would disqualify them.

Not only did the DEA fumble on background checks for applicants, they also did not utilize their best tool for enforcement, which is issuing an immediate suspension order (ISO). An ISO forces the registrant to immediately cease manufacturing, distributing, or prescribing a controlled substance. The report suggests that if the DEA had used more ISO’s, then it’s possible less opioids would have been distributed in the U.S., and maybe the crisis would be lessened.

Prince Law Firm Can Help You

It’s important to remember that no one group was to blame for the opioid crisis—many factors came together to create and sustain it. If you or a loved one are struggling with an opioid addiction, a lawyer could benefit you. Going up against pharmaceutical companies can be a large task on your own, but with an experienced attorney, you have a fighting chance. At Prince Law Firm, we will support you through the case and ensure you get the justice you deserve. Contact us today so we can start your claim and holding drug companies responsible for their actions.



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