The former head of the DEA office what was responsible for preventing prescription medicine abuse, said that drug companies and their lobbyists have a “stranglehold” on Congress that protects the 9 billion dollar a year trade in opioid painkillers. Joseph Rannazzisi, who held his position with the DEA until a year ago, has been quoted as saying, “Congress would rather listen to people who have a profit motive rather than a public health and safety motive. As long as the industry has this stranglehold through lobbyists, nothing is going to change.”
Rannazzisi, who is a pharmacist, is particularly critical of politicians who claim to be fighting the opiate epidemic while favoring the pharmaceutical industry in Congress. Rannazzisi claims that Congress is too indebted to pharmaceutical companies have been brought up for years. Rannazzisi says that the pharmaceutical industries influence on opioid policies is particularly troubling, given the 19,000 lives lost a year due to the use of opioid painkillers.
Rannazzis has clashed with Congress over a law passed in April 2016 that reduces the DEA’s ability to suspend the licenses of distributors and pharmacists accused of dispensing excessive amounts of opioids without following the regulations. The law, which was initiated by a pharmaceutical industry –funded group, known as The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, the act requires the DEA to warn pharmacies and distributors if they are in breach of regulations and gives them a chance to comply before their licenses are withdrawn. Rannazzisi sees this as an essentially giving a “free pass” for institutional drug trafficking. He is quoted in The Guardian as saying, “Corporations have no conscience. Unfortunately, with my job, I was the guy who had to go out and talk to families that lost kids. If one of these CEO’s went out there and talked to anybody, or if one of these CEO’s happened to lose a kid to this horrible, horrible domestic tragedy we have, I’d bet you they’d change their mind.”