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.”
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,