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December 2016


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Pharmaceutical Companies Hire DEA Agents Tasked with Cracking Down on Opioids

pillsBy Steve Neavling

The pharmaceutical industry, which distributes highly addictive opioids that have lead to the heroin epidemic and nearly 180,000 overdoses in the past decade, has hired dozens of top-level DEA officials, the Boston Globe reveals. 

The DEA began an aggressive campaign to curb opioid use, and in 2005, agents began cracking down on companies that distribute the painkillers.

In the past decade, the pharmaceutical companies and their law firms have hired at least 42 DEA officials, most of whom were responsible for regulating the industry.

‘‘The number of employees recruited from that division points to a deliberate strategy by the pharmaceutical industry to hire people who are the biggest headaches for them,’’ said John Carnevale, a former director of planning for the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy who now runs a consulting firm. ‘‘These people understand how DEA operates, the culture around diversion and DEA’s goals, and they can advise their clients how to stay within the guidelines.’’

A pharmaceutical spokesman said the industry has been hiring experts in prescription drug.

‘‘Our industry is highly specialized, and the function of drug-diversion experts even more so,’’ said John M. Gray, chief executive of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, which represents drug distributors. ‘‘As such, for these individuals who want to continue to grow in their areas of expertise, it is logical for them to pursue government and industry roles that are closely aligned with their professional experience.’’

The Boston Globe wrote, “The number of hires from one key division shows how an industry can potentially blunt a government agency’s aggressive attempts at enforcement.”

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