60 Minutes and the Opioid Crisis

While catching up on chores around my apartment Sunday Evening ‘60 minutes’ came on CBS and I found the topic to be quite engaging.  The 27-minute segment produced by 60 minutes and The Washington Post is presented below, if you are interested in watching it, and focuses on the opioid crisis; specifically, how congress and the drug industry may have exasperated the issue.

The report hinges around Joe Rannazzsi, a whistleblower, who ran the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Office of Diversion Control. This division is responsible for monitoring, investigating, and regulating the pharmaceutical industry. As Rannazzsi alleges, the drug industry, paid lobbyist, and congress colluded to not curtail the developing opioid crisis, but rather “provide the rocket fuel for a crisis that… has claimed 200,000 lives.”

Article:/Video https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ex-dea-agent-opioid-crisis-fueled-by-drug-industry-and-congress/

I would recommend reading the article and/or watching the video to get the entirety of the story. In brief, Mr. Rannazzisi accuses: 1) drug distributors knowingly pumping unjustifiable quantities of opioid drugs into communities ravished by addiction, 2) drug companies using their power and clout to push back on federal investigations and regulations, 3) drug companies perpetuating the revolving door where top DEA attorneys are bought out and end up working for the same companies they were originally prosecuting, and 4) congress, at the recommendations of lobbyist and former drug company associates, removed the DEA’s power to legally go after wholesale distributors.

The reality is all of these actions, and more that Mr. Rabbazzisi and others exposured during the interview, are worth discussing within an ethical context.

Should drug distribution companies be solely worried about profits or should they take their users general welfare into account?

Should companies be allowed to lobby their corporate interests or buyout politicians?

Should DEA attorneys with intimate knowledge of the methods used to prosecute be allowed to be bought out to protect those same organizations?

Should individuals with conflicts of interest (drug company attorneys, for instance) be allowed to pursue public office and change legislation for personal (or corporate) gain?

Personally, I feel that I find most of the above to be unethical (I feel, regardless of how achievable it is, that those in the health field should care about people’s health and wellbeing, politicians should be less inclined to legislate based on powerful lobbyists, attorneys shouldn’t be bought out and flip sides, and certainly that conflicts of interests should be considered with any public service position) but I am more interested in how others view this case. Thoughts?

 

As always thanks for reading,

Matt

2 Replies to “60 Minutes and the Opioid Crisis”

  1. I agree that the hypothetical questions you pose are all an easy “no”. No, drug distributors should not be solely concerned about profits. No, DEA attorneys should not turn around and protect these companies. Unfortunately, while unethical, none of this is illegal. The same can be said about any industry, though the effects of this situation is certainly more extreme as it directly affects people’s well-being.

    Take any soda company, like Pepsi or Coca-Cola. Soda is terrible for your health (literally sugar water). If these companies cared about health as much as profits then they wouldn’t make it so cheap and widely available. Granted this is a much less extreme example, but you get the idea. The political entanglements in the opioid industry certainly make it even more of a complex ethical issue.

  2. Due to this 60 Minutes segment, The Trump Administration nominee for drug czar has been withdrawn. https://thefederalist.com/2017/10/18/60-minutes-reporting-not-sunk-drug-czar-nominee/ This article has countering argument against that of the 60 minutes segment, it does not address the claims made by Rannazzisi, but provides a perspective that I personally did not consider when initially reading your blog and the 60 minutes article you provided. This article offers an outlook that when the DEA freezes distributors ability to produce drugs they begin to have a deficit for the people who actually need the medication. Yes, there is an addiction problem in the US, but we must see the arguments from all sides. I have grandparents in chronic pain, and I could not imagine their medications being cut or unavailable for long periods of time because of an addiction case in the area.

    The rhetorical questions you posed are biased, which lead to responses favorable to the argument raised by Rannazzisi without consideration of the other side.
    This is not exactly fair. The issues raised in the 60 Minutes segment are alarming none the least. I think the ethical dilemma falls strongly in the lawyer realm. We live in a country that allows employees with intimate knowledge and advantage have the freedom to switch to firms or future employers that can benefit from such knowledge, no matter if they worked for the US government with classified information. Unfortunately, it is unethical to tell lawyers they cannot work anywhere else if they stop working for the government. Until we can figure out a way to work through this realm politics, I do not think we will reach a solution anytime soon.

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