The CBS.com link at the bottom takes you to 60 minutes, and all the related segments are on the right sidebar, but at least the central main 27 minutes video plays (after a long ad); it’s been transcribed. The facts as to how many opioid pills have been ‘deployed’ to some towns in Appalachia are mind-boggling, and this piece from wsws.org has them, but I wanted to talk more about what the whistleblower is exposing about the DEA higher-ups, and the joint Red/Blue project that’s pushing it all along.
From Patrick Martin at wsws.org: ‘Behind the opioid crisis: Republicans and Obama cleared the way for corporate murder’; A joint investigation by “60 Minutes” and the Washington Post found that Republicans and Democrats in Washington did the bidding of giant drug distribution companies responsible for fueling the opioid crisis, Oct. 16, 2017
“Leading Republican and Democratic members of Congress and top Obama administration officials collaborated to shut down efforts by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to stem the flow of prescription opioids that have killed 200,000 Americans over the past two decades, according to a devastating exposure published Sunday by the Washington Post and broadcast Sunday night on the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes.”
The joint investigation by the Post and “60 Minutes” made use of extensive whistleblower revelations by former officials of the DEA, which has the main responsibility for halting the flow of illegal narcotics, including prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone.
Three major companies, all in the top 20 of the Fortune 500 and hugely profitable, dominate the distribution of these opioids: McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, with combined revenues of more than $450 billion.
These gigantic revenues and huge personal fortunes were accumulated by means of what can only be termed a massive social crime: the flooding of impoverished working-class neighborhoods with high volumes of opioids, narcotics that were being prescribed in vast quantities by doctors and pharmacists and illegal “pain centers” and “pill mills” that were a constant presence in the affected areas.” [snip]
The consequences have been felt in a historic reversal in the long-term rise of life expectancy in the United States. For middle-aged whites, particularly those living in rural areas, life expectancy is declining and death rates soaring, in large part because of the impact of opioid abuse and addiction.
Appalachia is a center of the opioid crisis. The figures presented in the Post /”60 Minutes” report are staggering—and damning.”
Yes, they’re appalling and more. Williamson, KY is filling a lawsuit against Miami-Luken. But you can click in to read the egregious numbers, as I’d like to get to the exposé named in the title in case you don’t want to read the transcript at CBS.
“Post reporters Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein and “Sixty Minutes” reporter Bill Whitaker conducted dozens of interviews for their exposé, but the principal whistleblower is Joseph T. Rannazzisi, who headed the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control for a decade until he was forced out in 2015.
The Office of Diversion Control oversees the flow of prescription drugs produced by the major US pharmaceutical companies and shipped to hospitals and pharmacies and other prescribers by distributors, including the big three. By targeting unusually large and unexplained sales—for example, several Walgreen’s pharmacies in Florida sold more than one million opioid pills in a year, compared to a nationwide average of 74,000—the DEA unit could force companies to pay substantial fines.”
These big three and smaller distributors paid more than $400 million in fines over the last decade as the result of the DEA, but this is a pittance compared to their gross revenues during that same period, well over $5 trillion. One former DEA official told the Post this sum simply represented “a cost of doing business.”
A more serious problem for the industry was the issuance of “freeze” orders, in which the DEA could use its authority to order a distributor to halt a shipment if there is “imminent danger” to the community. According to Rannazzisi, there was increasing resistance from top-level DEA officials, from 2011 on, to approving such “freeze” orders against opioid distributors. During this period, the drug distributors hired 46 DEA officials either directly or through law firms or lobbying groups representing them.
In 2014, industry lobbyists produced a bill, written by a former DEA lawyer, and introduced by Republican Representative Tom Marino, that substantially raised the threshold of proof for a DEA order to halt a shipment. Instead of “imminent danger,” such an order required proof of “a substantial likelihood of an immediate threat,” a standard so strict that, once adopted, there were no further DEA orders to halt drug distribution.
Marino’s bill was initially blocked by DEA opposition, but it was reintroduced with Democratic cosponsors and passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote, without opposition, in April 2015. In October 2015, Rannazzisi was pushed into retirement at the DEA, after previously being removed as head of the Office of Diversion Control by means of heavy pressure from congressional Republicans on the Obama Justice Department. In March 2016, the Senate passed a modified version of the Marino bill, and the House accepted the changes the following month. The DEA was now handcuffed, and the drug distributors could proceed without any concern about federal oversight.
As Rannazzisi told “60 Minutes”: “The drug industry—the manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and chain drugstores—have an influence over Congress that has never been seen before. And these people came in with their influence and their money and got a whole statute changed because they didn’t like it.”
In July of this year, Genevieve Leigh at wsws had weighed in on the crisis with her ‘The impact of US opioid epidemic on foster care and social services, a generation of orphans’. Her stats indicated that Ohio, Sarasota, FL, and MA were at the centers of the opioid crisis as well. Some of the quoted statistics were more about the rising numbers of kids in foster care in Ohio, Florida, Maine, and the abysmal dearth of services (including recovery) that exacerbate the crisis, especially as so many of the potential clients are on, or should be eligible, for ever-shrinking Medicaid programs.
But Leigh had also quoted figures on the rising numbers of babies born addicted to opiates, although I’m not sure that some officials she’d cited actually made the case, such as:
“Scott Britton, who works for Public Children Services Association of Ohio, told the WSWS: “The drug epidemic really has caused a crisis across the board. We have 11 percent increase of children in custody and 19 percent increase in retention rate. We have some 2015 data that showed that 28 percent of the parents of kids who were taken from their homes were using some type of opioid. So that means more than one in four and almost one in three.”
In my ignorance about ‘babies born addicted to opiates, I did poke around and had seen many organizations and recovery programs saying it’s so. But I’d remembered the hysterical mythology of ‘crack babies’, and the later deconstruction of the myth.
Poking about, I’d landed on this FAIR.org page: ‘The Myth of the ‘Crack Baby’; Despite Research, Media Won’t Give Up Idea Of ‘Bio-Underclass’, Sept. 1, 1998
Whoa, Nellie, the op-eds and media went nuts over the propagandized ‘issue’, some are stomach-churning to read, starting with this:
“The hysteria and sheer meanness of the initial assault are captured by a 1989 Washington Post column by Charles Krauthammer (7/30/89 ), which began: “The inner-city crack epidemic is now giving birth to the newest horror: a bio-underclass, a generation of physically damaged cocaine babies whose biological inferiority is stamped at birth.” …and so on, but toward the bottom of the page is:
“Such a sustained media assault was not without real world effects, of course. Years of accusatory coverage contributed to a shift to more punitively focused public policy, which was, in turn, welcomed bv the press. In 1994, 60 Minutes aired a show (11/20/94) celebrating one such policy: a South Carolina law under which women who used cocaine while pregnant were arrested and jailed under child abuse statutes. “Cracking Down,” the segment was called.
Fast forward to 1998: Despite an amicus curiae letter signed by 15 leading medical and social service organizations condemning the policy, the Supreme Court declines to hear an appeal in the convictions of two South Carolina women. Cornelia Whitner and Malissa Crawley, both mothers of healthy children, are serving prison terms for prenatally “abusing” them by using cocaine. And 60 Minutes announces plans to re-air its 1994 segment on the policy that sent them to jail.
For Lynn Paltrow, one of the attorneys representing Whitner and Crawley, the 60 Minutes rerun was a very depressing idea. Paltrow told CounterSpin (6/19/95): “I wrote a letter saying please don’t rebroadcast information that’s inaccurate, or that suggested that this was a policy that worked.”
The “Cracking Down” segment focused on the Medical University of South Carolina Hospital, in downtown Charleston. It showcased Nurse Shirley Brown, who host Steve Kroft explained “thought something had to be done,” about pregnant drug addicts, and so “working with the police and the social service agencies and the local prosecutor,” developed the program of arresting them, sometimes out of their beds. The prosecutor, Charlie Condon, is shown declaring, “It worked like charm.”
““Many of the people who are actually working with the women and children were saying, ‘These are poverty babies, and nobody wants to address that. So we call them crack babies.’”
Paltrow also protested the selective enforcement of the program, pointing out that of 23 prosecutions, 22 were of African-American women, and the one white woman was married to a black man. 60 Minutes‘ way of addressing this concern was having Kroft question Charleston’s chief of police, who is black: “This isn’t a racist policy?” “No,” the police chief assures him. “No question about it.” [snip]
“Despite the concerns of Paltrow and others, 60 Minutes went ahead and re-aired its 1994 show (5/3l/98), making no mention of the changes in medical research and opinion, or the growing outcry among social service groups protesting turning mothers of cocaine-exposed babies over to the criminal justice system. The program certainly didn’t note that their story’s main source on South Carolina’s racially contentious policy, Nurse Shirley Brown, had testified in court that she objects to interracial marriage.”
Please weigh in at will over some of the questions I have on all of this.
One, is the CBS and other media coverage of the opioid epidemic more significant because it’s affecting more white people than black? Wsws would prefer to see it as a war on the underclass for obscene profit, naturally, but still… Including of course, why did #60 minutes air the exposé, perhaps the ownership is now more…enlightened than in 1998? Shouldn’t there be far worse penalties than ‘cost of doing bidness’ fines for these drug companies weaponizing and deploying their products for what are calling ‘genocide of the working poor’? Which forms of opioids are also culprits, and how does the rise of heroin use fit in to the overdose stats in general?
One other item, in the #60 minutes Twit account, this had been demanded: ‘60 Minutes – You Need to Report the Other Side of the Story’ by the nationalpainreport.com
“Here is the big story you should be reporting: that millions of American adults are suffering from severe pain, and they cannot get help to relieve their pain. I am not talking about minimal or moderate pain. I am talking about pain that patients describe as suicidal – pain so bad it’s all you can think about. This nation’s war on drugs has had far-reaching unintended consequences on millions of people who are now suffering. Overzealous efforts by the DEA have created a chilling effect on physicians and pharmacies; it’s hard for patients to find a doctor who will prescribe opioid pain medications even if that’s all that will help a person.”
And yes, I do remember reading that many people of color are refused pain meds because they might be faking, drug abusers, etc. It’s not hard to imagine, is it? But ‘overzealous DEA’ does seem a stretch, but maybe in certain locations? Also seen on the thread were calls to legalize cannabis across the board, as it’s been proven to decrease the use of opioids at an amazing rate, in Colorado, as one example.
Will there be calls to jail pregnant heroin and/or methadone ‘addicts’? The police chief of Sarasota, FL is saying no, no, no; we just need to get the new mix of heroin and Carfentanil (‘5000 times more potent than heroin’) off the streets. Will state or county governments underwrite free doses of Narcan (Naxalone) that allegedly can reverse the effects of an overdose if they care so much? Or restore/accept Medicaid block grants to those in need? You thinking: ‘when pigs fly’? Sigh, yeah, me, too. Well, unless a combined version of Conyers’ and Sanders’ passes into law…some day in the distant future.
Anyhoo, #60 Minutes seems very proud of the effects their Rannazzizi exposé has produced so far:
Ye gods and little fishes what might this ‘doing that’ sound like (on Twitter, I’d assume)?
with Trump, we have a wiener.
I too was wondering about the timing or even appearance of this joint expose from CBS/WaPo/60 minutes. it’s only been going on a long time, and been ramped up for the last only 6 years. too much action at local levels for major newzies to ignore? in a way perhaps it’s like covering a hurricane: CBS et al can’t not report on it, can they? unlike the unseen millions dead in the ME, N Africa, Central Asia, etc., from US policy, these victims are your next door neighbor. like killer cops, the media can’t just ignore it?
some people in this dog patch are convinced the DEA & local law are in cahoots w/the Mexican cartels supplying the meth for *urban* US cities. (in rural areas, demand is less, so, you know, cook local! provided you don’t exercise the twin capitalist virtues of greed & ambition, that is, and draw too much attention to yourself.) why? control of drugs is big bucks of course, to be used in off the book operations. but creating mass addiction among subject populaces is a colonialist MO. The disruption to possibly restive populations from addiction has enormous value. it’s not ultimately about money but control. not that those need be exclusive of each other.
i hadn’t really known that there’d been a lot of local coverage, bit if so, that might be one reason. but again i’d wonder if ‘white’ might have been part of it, cuz yanno, them blacks and addiction… no news there! and of course it’s bullshit, but…there it is.
one question i’d forgotten to ask was what in the world did pharmacists have to do w/ it? as in receiving 11 million oxycontin pills over two years in a town of 392 population? surely they knew the pharmacy was selling them on the black market, no? and heroin ODs: was that relatd to the fact that once addicted to pills, cut off, heroin was easier and cheaper to buy?
anyhoo, i did waaaay too much reading starting at six a.m., and i’ve gotten myself confused a bit, but i did click into this tweet to read:
and later i’d bingled to see if anyone had noted when rannazzisi had come forward to either cbs or the wapo, read the relevant thing at cbs, nothing about the timing. but still curious, i did click into the wapo story, dagnabbit, and it’s 2 L 2 R for now, but i did see two things as i scanned. one was the quote patrick martin had used:
“They weren’t slinging crack on the corner,” Rannazzisi said. “These were professionals who were doing it. They were just drug dealers in lab coats.”
and the other was this i’d wondered about: “When the DEA suspected that a company was ignoring suspicious sales, the agency filed an “order to show cause.” That gave a company at least 30 days to explain why the agency should not revoke its registration.
In the most egregious cases, the DEA employed an “immediate suspension order,” allowing the agency to lock up a distributor’s drugs. The orders instantly halted all commerce in controlled substances on the grounds that the drugs constituted an “imminent danger” to the community. (no examples given)
Under Rannazzisi in the mid-2000s, the DEA repeatedly warned the companies that they were shipping unusually large volumes of opioids to customers around the country. Despite the warnings, some companies continued the shipments.” warnings, meh.
more soon, gotta go for now.
er…part II, son of a preacher man. your having mentioned the dea being in cahoots w/ cartels and selling meth combined w’ ‘these aren-t guys slingin’ crack in the hood’ or whatever to make me wonder if there are any stories out and about claiming that. if so, i couldn’t find them, but i did hit upon cia and crack cocaine, of course, as per gary webb’s great reporting. and tarzie’s on gary webb: whooosh, were those 3 parts righteous! but along the way i read a pbs frontine piece (okay, scanned, as it was a whitewash of the cia boiling down to some Offishull Report concluding that ‘maybe a few agents turned a blind eye, or hadnt got the memos’ rubbish. but i clicked back and found this 2014 huffpo piece, amazingly enuff:
‘Key Figures In CIA-Crack Cocaine Scandal Begin To Come Forward’
“It did not end well for Webb, however. Major media, led by The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, worked to discredit his story. Under intense pressure, Webb’s top editor abandoned him. Webb was drummed out of journalism. One LA Times reporter recently apologized for his leading role in the assault on Webb, but it came too late. Webb died in 2004 from an apparent suicide. Obituaries referred to his investigation as “discredited.”
Now, Webb’s bombshell expose is being explored anew in a documentary, “Freeway: Crack in the System,” directed by Marc Levin, which tells the story of “Freeway” Rick Ross, who created a crack empire in LA during the 1980s and is a key figure in Webb’s “Dark Alliance” narrative. The documentary is being released after the major motion picture “Kill The Messenger,” which features Jeremy Renner in the role of Webb and hits theaters on Friday.”, and so on. the trailer’s there, on youtube it costs $3.99 to watch, pffft. but it looks worth reading for certain.
i’d also remember the transcript for this exposé mentioning an earlier piece featuring a death wall of overdoses, turned out to be from heroin in ohio; harder to find than i’d thunk, but: Heroin epidemic kills at least 23 Ohioans each week; Should heroin be treated as a medical or a legal problem? Bill Whitaker reports from Ohio on how the hard-hit state is handling the crisis; including its use of drug courts, #60 minutes, april 24, 2016
in comments, this:
annebeth66 • a year ago
“I live here in West Virginia and back in the 90’s I was a county social worker, that witnessed the Crack Epidemic. As long as Black & Brown folks were using and dying, law enforcement treated the “user and dealer” exactly the same. No one cared about what was happening, with even one local politician stating that “we need to build more prisons” and lock them ALL up. Today WV is going through a devastating Heroin Epidemic but the users are now mostly White and the dialogue has changed completely. The user’s are no longer “junkies” but “addicts” in the midst of a helpless situation, not engaging in a “criminal act.” There is talk of intervention, drug treatment instead of arrest help instead of incarceration; compassion instead of criticism.
Now that White families are losing children to overdose, it is a “crisis” with the Governor creating a Task Force, to look at ways to save lives. I look back to the Black & Brown families that lost children in the 90’s to Crack and wonder, how many lives could have been saved, if someone had actually cared? Very few people offered those families compassion, support and sympathy they were told that their child was “a junkie that got what they deserved.” So the same White people who couldn’t be bothered back then, are burying their kids to a drug overdose. I wonder if they even think that they are in the same exact situation as the Black and Brown parents, they so harshly judged years ago?”
in comments below the cbs ‘why angry?’ piece, some comments said that it was glorifying the DEA (?), many, many said that all those hillbillies were just weak druggies, they’d find em anyway, and “when I got pain pills, i did not abuse them!” sorts of virtue signalling.
guess we’ll never know why they aired it, but it’s better than airing the crack babies story…twice.
“control of drugs is big bucks of course, to be used in off the book operations. but creating mass addiction among subject populaces is a colonialist MO. The disruption to possibly restive populations from addiction has enormous value. it’s not ultimately about money but control. not that those need be exclusive of each other.” amen to that. but at least these folks, as far as we know, won’t often be sent into the out -of-control for profit US prison system. or will they? have they? the live ones, i mean; would it be impolitic of me to bring ‘color’ into it?
on edit: how did i forget this? (don’t answer.)
that comment from the WV social worker is just sickening, isn’t it? as awful as it is, local politicos were just treating the lives of blacks the same way the CIA & LAPD & so on viewed them when flooding their neighborhoods w/crack.
as Hannibal Lector asked Fibbie Clarise Starling, “what is the thing in itself? what is its essence?” what is the USG in its essence? is it its miserly social services, its ridiculous “foreign aid”, its NIH & scientific research? its posturing about human rights & the paper values expressed in the Bill of Rights? its pseudo-democratic processes & “justice for at best 7%” legal & political institutions? the ‘dynamism’ of its entrepreneurial spirit (“Godfather’s: now like never before cramming more pepperoni & cheeze into your pizza dough”)?
or is it its DU? glyphosate? gmo’s? slavery? radiological experimentation on its own citizenry & hapless island natives (incl. the Japanese)? manufactured opioid, crack, and possibly meth epidemics? control of global heroin production via brutal subjugation of Afghanistan? creating & supporting Islamic jihadis, Contras, and other death squads around the world? mass incarceration & the surveillance state? bombing campaigns rivaling both world wars? etc., etc., etc.
what’s the essence & what’s accidental? the treated & sometimes drinkable water or the hydrofracking?
and guns: is it the rhetoric about guns & gun control that’s the truth or the mass production of guns & weapons to flood into every corner of the world?
i love this comment, j. i hate this comment, j. both cuz it’s all too close to the bone. long day; if i can, my i say more tomorrow? not a rockstroh fave of mine, but he speaks to homelessness. i’d wonderd if it might have spoken to this…subject. but please be well, and i’ll email tomorrow. kinda rough day here in RL, but not as rough as so many are experiencing.
‘Two or Three Things I Know About Capitalism’.
why didn’t oprah get them all, or at least the prisoners she visited, a car? or at least a baked ham?
OT, but this is very good:
“On Russia, Today’s Liberal Luminaries Take Their Cues From Fascists”
Chapter 1: Fascism and Anti-Communism: a Match Made in Hell – on Soviet anti-racism and the shared class interest between liberals and fascists.
Chapter 2: Goebbels, Hearst, Bandera, and McCarthy – Nazi propaganda makes its way to North America; the activities of Ukrainian nationalists during WWII; Ukrainian fascists come to America at the dawn of the Red Scare.
Chapter 3: Ronald Reagan and his Conquest – the Reagan administration’s plans for a gargantuan military buildup and propaganda offensive; Western intelligence agencies’ favorite “scholar” Robert Conquest; Ukrainian nationalists take up Reagan’s campaign.
Chapter 4: Washington Über Alles – Washington plunders a unipolar world; fascist advocacy groups and liberals promote Nazi lies; the birth of Cold War II.
Chapter 5: Timothy Snyder, Euromaidan, and the Fascist Offensive – Timothy Snyder brings fringe revisionist history into the mainstream; the specter of Stepan Bandera haunts Euromaidan; Democrats make friends with modern-day Banderites.
Chapter 6: #Resisting the Oriental-Bolshevik Menace – Democrats take up Ukrainian fascist propaganda; liberal luminaries manufacture an Orientalist hysteria; NATO threatens to unleash another Operation Barbarossa.
‘or at least a baked ham’, lol x 3, aqua vitae man. holy hell, did you really read all that? i looked at the art, mainly, and skidded to stops now and again. esp. wm. randolph hearst’s bits, ay yi yi, i hadn’t known that abut his epic ‘power of the press’!
reefer madness and hemp mainly, but then…didn’t he start a war? and sarah kendzidor (sp?) and black lives matter, and russia?? but yeah, we’ve seen that with ‘the russian ads on facebook illogical smears. politically related to yulia tymoshenko, iirc.
at least i did recognize stepan bandera, oh, yes. but speaking of fascist support by the ‘libruls’ in the US, i’d thought these might bring more schadenfreude than they actually provided. still funny, though.
i reread one of tarzie’s essays on gary webb, and damnation, it was good. (ryan devereaux, you are not gary webb.) i’d forgotten he’d written those post-declassification, but then…memory holes can be seen two discrete ways, dagnabbit.
What this story looks like to me is that it is more centered in white communities because of the patterns of private medical care in rural and rust-belt communities. That fact prevents massive incarceration from becoming the primary instrument of “treatment”. It’s treatment is more like powder cocaine than crack cocaine in the way that law enforcement is handling it.
There are certain communities in which law enforcement (generally prosecutors) want to show their anti-abortion bona fides by sentencing women for all sorts of situation that can be interpreted as abuse. The crack baby hysteria was followed by opportunistic cases of incarceration of mothers, which then creates a child-care issue. I can see even poor white and working-class women being targets of these opportunistic prosecutors. And in rural communities, everyone tends to be known to the prosecutor by name; prosecution can be quite selective, and potentially a form of sexual blackmail.
Yet another reason for folks making bunches of bucks (and corporations as well) to pay bunches of taxes. It lowers the incentive for get-rich-quick kinds of abuses.
And yet more evidence of the collapse of the US health care system. The big collapse comes when medical debtors no longer can or will pay their debts and their financial condition starts taking down providers.
The full list of sponsors of the most recent bill would be bipartisanly instructive as would the final roll call vote.
And two decades ago was when Bill Clinton was distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Ken Starr’s investigation. Love to know the cast of characters who set this in motion two decades ago. I figure NJ, IN, NC, and other Big PhRMA state members of Congress.
but hey! obama single-handedly tweaked the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparities! but i think i take your point about ‘why white’. now there may have been other cities, states, on the list that razz hadn’t mentioned. but again: the pharmacists. is the implication they just sell them out the back door?
crap, i hadn’t even thought of ‘sexual favors’ extortions. the house version passed on a unanimous voice vote, the senate reconciliation…dunno. would it still be up on orrin hatch’s website? but i wonder if the waPo version said what the infernal bill was called? ‘wasted again in tom merinoville’? fiddlesticks, i’d meant to read it, but multi-tasking is harder all the time.
on edit: here’s the wapo coverage; i won’t get it read cuz i’m trying to read and learn for the ecosocialism piece.
higher taxes for corporations: aren’t tax attorneys exactly for finding all the loopholes, creating subsidiaries, tra la la even if the tax rate were to go up again? but sure, the US health care system is closer to a death system for far too many. but woot: from your mouth to the goddess’s ears on taking down the providers.
‘I figure NJ, IN, NC, and other Big PhRMA state members of Congress’. might just be, but in a way i was amazed at the bribery totals these big three had spent. and how amazing that i’d never heard of one of them.
And David Dayen weighs in on Google’s role.