BOSTON (CBS) — “The drug companies, frankly, are getting away with murder,” said President Donald Trump yesterday. And while the president talking about soaring drug prices, on Sunday night a joint 60 Minutes/Washington Post investigation exposed a form of political homicide -the drug industry’s successful assault on longstanding law enforcement leeway to go after unscrupulous drug distributors who’ve fueled the national opioid epidemic by flooding the market with the highly-addictive drugs.
“The [Drug Enforcement Administration’s] toughest sanction is to freeze distributors’ shipments of narcotics, a step they haven’t taken in almost two years,” noted the report, which included testimony by DEA whistleblowers.
They say their prosecutions of the distributors had slowed to a trickle after intense drug-industry lobbying last year led to Congressional passage and presidential approval of a law that made it much harder for DEA agents to go after companies for distributing huge quantities of opioids, a practice experts say has fueled the explosion of opioid-related deaths.
It’s a sobering story, one Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker called “incredibly disturbing and distressing in so many ways.”
And it seems like a classic study of how the Washington “swamp” is hampering what candidate Trump made a key campaign initiative.
Nonetheless, Congressman Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, a key sponsor of the law, has been nominated by the White House to lead the war on drug abuse as head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
That was too much for Sen. Joe Manchin of opioid-ravaged West Virginia, who has called for the Marino nomination to be withdrawn.
And the president’s comment?
“He was a very early supporter of mine, the great state of Pennsylvania, he’s a great guy. I did see the report and we’re gonna look into it, we take it very seriously.”