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Old November 1st, 2016, 02:25 PM   #1
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Senators ask for DEA data in wake of Washington Post investigation

. Two senators asked Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Wednesday to explain a sharp drop in the number of enforcement actions against large pharmaceutical distributors and others by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) requested a wide variety of information about cases brought by DEA’s Diversion Control Division in the wake of a Washington Post investigation published over the weekend.

The DEA division enforces laws written to prevent the diversion of opioid painkillers to the black market, where they can fall into the hands of substance abusers and drug dealers.

The senators’ four-page letter asks Lynch to explain why the office has filed few administrative charges in recent years, whether a law approved by Congress earlier this year has hamstrung the diversion division and what standard the DEA uses before deciding to take an enforcement action.

[Read the full Leahy-Wyden letter to Attorney General Lynch.]

Former DEA investigators: 'People were dying' while opioid cases languished Play Video4:12

DEA investigators: As people died of pill overdoses, our cases went nowhere (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)
The senators also asked for more information about a 2015 settlement with pharmaceutical giant McKesson that has remained largely confidential aside from the company’s disclosure in federal filings that it would pay a $150 million fine for its actions. And the lawmakers asked why no fine has been levied against Cardinal Health, another major distributor, despite a settlement in a diversion case against the company in 2012.

The senators singled out a drop in cases from 131 in 2011 to 40 in 2014.

“This startling decrease in enforcement activity occurred just as our nation began to confront the scope of the opioid epidemic — and just as the over-prescription of powerful opioid painkillers was recognized as a major driver of the crisis,” Leahy and Wyden wrote.

About 165,000 people have died of painkiller overdoses between 2000 and 2014.

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