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A Crisis of Misinformation

October 18, 2017

The Washington Post and 60 Minutes have done a major disservice to the battle against opioid abuse with their biased and one-sided reporting, specifically related to the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act. Their reporting was based primarily on the word of a former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official, Joe Rannazzisi, who is now a consultant to trial lawyers suing the industry, as noted in both outlets.

Distributors are logistics companies that arrange for the safe and secure storage, transport and delivery of medicines from manufacturers to pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities and others based on prescriptions from DEA-licensed physicians. While distributors don’t make medicines, market medicines, prescribe medicines or dispense them to consumers, we do recognize our role — as well as the responsibility of those across the supply chain — to advance meaningful solutions to the serious, complex issues raised by the opioid crisis.

The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act was part of a broad, system-wide effort to address abuse and misuse. The law passed unanimously by Congress as a way to improve enforcement efforts and combat the opioid epidemic. It addressed one of the serious concerns from patient and pharmacy organizations that the DEA’s hit-and-miss approach was jeopardizing access to needed medicines.

We cannot forget that while many have abused these medicines, there are many more patients suffering from cancer, recovering from surgery or facing other serious health issues who have limited options. It is why the law was crafted, debated and passed on a bipartisan basis with the full involvement of all stakeholders, including the DEA and the Department of Justice.

Critics, including The Washington Post, claim the bill impeded DEA’s ability to issue immediate suspension orders (ISOs), pointing to a drop-off beginning in 2011 during Rannazzisi’s tenure. The reality is that the bill was only signed into law in April 2016 and could in no way have impacted enforcement actions in prior years. Just this week, the current DEA Acting Administrator disputed the accuracy of the report’s claims that the DEA has slowed down enforcement based on the number of ISOs alone, arguing that the agency uses many different tools to achieve its oversight goals.

In addition, under Rannazzisi’s watch, the agency made no effort to use its regulatory authority to reduce the annual production of opioids. When new leadership was in place in 2016, the overall volume was reduced by 25 percent — a stark turnaround from the Rannazzisi era where he oversaw and approved annual quota increases, including a more than 200 percent increase in oxycodone production.

Rewriting history to suit false storylines does not serve the public interest. Instead, it distracts attention away from a more honest conversation on how best to fight the nation’s opioid epidemic. 

We stand ready to work with stakeholders across the health system on measures that would actually have a meaningful impact on reversing this crisis — like prescription limits, prescriber education, e-prescribing and greater use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). On all these issues, America’s healthcare distributors have a record of bringing forth positive solutions and we stand ready to work together for public health and the national good.

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance represents America’s primary pharmaceutical distributors. Distributors ensure the safe, secure and timely delivery of medicines to pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare facilities every day, ensuring that patients can rely on the medicine they need being available to them when they need it. Learn more about distributors’ role in the supply chain and the facts at hda.org/prevention.

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ABOUT THE HEALTHCARE DISTRIBUTION ALLIANCE

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) represents primary pharmaceutical distributors — the vital link between the nation’s pharmaceutical manufacturers and more than 200,000 pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and others nationwide. Since 1876, HDA has helped members navigate regulations and innovations to get the right medicines to the right patients at the right time, safely and efficiently. The HDA Research Foundation, HDA’s non-profit charitable foundation, serves the healthcare industry by providing research and education focused on priority healthcare supply chain issues.

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