When Big Pharma Gets Caught in Opioid Diversion

In the news recently, the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical distribution corporation known as “Cardinal Health” was fined a hefty sum of forty-four million dollars for illicit activities regarding opioid pharmaceuticals. For years now, a full complement of Big Pharma manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and even individual doctors offices have come under the magnifying glass for knowingly contributing to the opioid epidemic. Cardinal Health is only the most recent in a long line of transgressors.

The opioid epidemic was brought on by pharmaceutical drugs, and any individual who knowingly contributed to it deserves the fullest punishment possible. We are talking about a crisis that has claimed more than six-hundred and thirty-thousand lives in the last seventeen years.

No one wants to lose a family member or loved one to a drug problem, but something about losing a family member or loved one to a drug problem thanks to a legal and supposed safe and helpful pharmaceutical drug is somehow that much more agonizing. Unfortunately, this is the exact fate that so many Americans have had to face. We now live in a country where the legal drugs are just as dangerous, if not more so than the illegal ones.

Cardinal Health Implicated in Class-Act Lawsuit

In a direct quote from a breaking news bulletin from The Washington Post:

  • “One of the nation’s largest drug distributors has agreed to pay $44 million in fines to resolve allegations that it failed to alert the Drug Enforcement Administration to suspicious orders of powerful narcotics by pharmacies in Florida, Maryland and New York.”

Cardinal Health is not the only one to come under fire. As the opioid epidemic grows more severe, dozens of doctors have lost their licenses for blatantly prescribing painkillers to known addicts, all for a hefty profit. Pharmacies have been shut down for being “pill mills” and for illegally selling pharmaceuticals to addicts. Entire pharmaceutical manufacturers are now under investigation.

But what really hurts is when a pharmaceutical distributor is caught delivering millions of doses of highly addictive and potentially lethal pain relievers to pharmacies that will sell them under the counter to addicts. What really hurts is when pharmaceutical distributors do this knowingly, turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to such pharmacies and collecting impressive profit margins as a result.

Cardinal Health is not the only drug magnate that has been hit. McKesson Corp had to pay a one-hundred and fifty-million dollar fine. Cardinal Health has been busted twice and has had to pay separate fines, one for forty-four million dollars and another for twenty million. According to Frank Younker, former DEA agent and consultant to some of the lawsuits levied against Big Pharma:

  • “Have the distributors gotten the message? I would hope so. The distributors are important. They’re like the quarterback. They distribute the ball. There’s plenty of blame to go around.”

When all of the cards are on the table, though, this is really just a start. It is only the very beginning of what needs to be a battle that is waged far more ruthlessly than it currently is.

It’s Still Not Enough

Pharmaceutical Distributors have done everything they can to keep these investigations off of them. According to the Washington Post, the drug industry hired dozens of officials from the DEA over to their side, aiming to “get rid of the agents most troublesome to them.” As a result, civil case filings against pharmaceutical distributors, manufacturers, pharmacies, and doctors dropped from one-hundred and thirty-one filings in 2011 to only forty filings in 2014. DEA suspension orders to the above entities fell from sixty-five to only nine during that same time. And all of this occurred while the nation struggled with skyrocketing opioid overdose deaths. This is blatant evil in its purest form.

Even with massive lawsuits like the above getting pushed through and pharmaceutical monoliths finally being held accountable for their actions, it is still not enough. These are multi-billion dollar companies. A legal fine of a few million dollars is a mosquito bite to such giants. Furthermore, using a fine as a punishment enforces no change. It doesn’t accomplish a result. For all we know, those distributors could have walked out of court, paid their fine, and then gone right back to their patterns.

We need to stop this trend of ridiculous prescription drug addiction by actually forcing Big Pharma to make different products that are not addictive. We need pain relief solutions that are not also a threat to our very lives.

Sources:

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/01/27/511858862/drug-distributors-penalized-for-turning-blind-eye-in-opioid-epidemic

http://www.healtheo360.com/headline/cardinal-health-fined-44-million-for-opioid-reporting-violations/

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-opioids-litigation/kentucky-accuses-cardinal-health-of-contributing-to-opioid-epidemic-idUSKCN1G31W1

https://www.realclearhealth.com/vitals/2017/01/12/cardinal_health_fined_em44_millionem_for_opioid_reporting_violations_274773.html

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