DEA Responds to 60 Minutes’ Stunning Report on the Opioid Crisis

By A.J. Katz 

Last night’s illuminating¬†60 Minutes report on the drug distribution industry’s role in the opioid crisis is an example of when strong investigative reporting by multiple organizations can expose significant malpractice by those in power.

The federal government is having to respond to tough questions this morning in light of he 60 Minutes-Washington Post report detailing Congress, DEA and the drug distribution industry’s respective roles in worsening the opioid crisis.

The DEA admits it has taken actions against far fewer opioid distributors under a new law. According to CBS News, a Justice Department memo shows 65 doctors, pharmacies and drug companies received suspension orders in 2011. Only six have received suspension orders this year.

The report also states that the DEA has issued no suspension orders against a distributor for nearly two years, but states that it will continue to “use all the tools at our disposal to combat this epidemic.”

“During the past seven years, we have removed approximately 900 registrations annually, preventing reckless doctors and rogue businesses from making an already troubling problem worse,” the DEA noted in a written statement. “Increasingly, our investigators initiated more than 10,000 cases and averaged more than 2,000 arrests per year.”

CBS News correspondent Paula Reid is reporting that the Justice Department, which oversees the DEA, maintains that combating this crisis is a priority for the Trump administration.

“One of the president’s and the attorney general’s highest priorities is ending the devastating and unacceptable drug crisis in America that saw 64,000 deaths in 2016, many of them caused by opioids,” Ian D. Prior, principal deputy director of public affairs at the Justice Department, said in a written statement. “From street dealers to corrupt doctors to the distributors that allow diversion of deadly pills, this administration is absolutely committed to reversing this disturbing and heartbreaking trend and will use every tool available to do so.”

CBS News also reached out to Chuck Rosenberg, the DEA chief from May 2015 until earlier this month when he stepped down. He told CBS News that he had not seen the 60 Minutes story and does not intend to do so.