This latest post on Alternet comes as a follow-up to my post on the increase of workplace drug test positives for oxycodone. Remember, when your government tells you we need a Drug-Free America and we must protect the public from dangerous drugs abuse, they only mean the drugs whose dealers and manufacturers don’t make huge campaign contributions.
(Alternet) The pharmaceutical companies that make Oxycodone and its two dozen generic equivalents — such as Endocodone, Oxyfast and Percocet — are required by law to present an annual application to the Office of Diversion Control seeking approval for a quota of the drug’s annual production. Should a company desire to manufacture more than the previous year, it must request an increase — and the DEA must approve.
In 1997, a year after prescription drugmaker Purdue Pharma first brought Oxycontin (the first branded version of Oxycodone) to market, the total production quota approved by the Office of Diversion Control was 8.3 tons. By 2011, it had risen to 105 tons, an officially sanctioned 1,200 percent increase over the same period that saw Oxycodone emerge as what Haislip calls “the Cadillac of America’s prescription drug abuse crisis.”
When I was in Orlando, the college kids of University of Central Florida told me about the “pill mill” epidemic referred to in this report. The way they described it, it sounded like the image our opponents paint of medical marijuana in California. ”Yeah, you can go to a shady little fake clinic,” one young man told me, “complain about pain, get a script from a shady doc, and get yourself 500 OxyContin pills, no problem.” Another told me of a friend of his who gets the OxyContin to sell so he can buy the ridiculously overpriced marijuana in Florida.
What’s incredibly disturbing to me is the reporter asking the DEA about the skyrocketing abuse rates of oxycodone and whether dialing down the quota, as was done with amphetamines in the 1970s and quaaludes in the 1980s, might help reduce the abuse of these powerful synthetic opioids. The answer from DEA supervisory special agent Gary Boggs, was basically that we have to pump out enough oxy for all the recreational users so the medical users can have enough access!
“What you have to understand,” Boggs replied, “is that you do have legitimate patients and they’re fishing from the same pond that the illegitimate patients are fishing from, so you have to be cautious not to restrict the quota to the point that when the legitimate parties go to the pool, all the fish haven’t been taken out by the illegitimate parties.”
Can you imagine the reaction we’d get in the medical marijuana states if we said, “Gee, we have to plant 96 trees per medical garden that harvest over a pound each so that the legal medical marijuana patients will have enough left over after illegal pot smokers get theirs!”
And this is partially why the Obama Administration is initiating a crackdown on medical marijuana businesses – their ability to shape policy in Washington if they are well-funded and organized:
The Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) employs more lobbyists in Washington than there are members of Congress. Since 2007, the group has spent more than $20 million annually on lobbying in Washington to see that its interests are protected.
That influence is felt in the offices of the DEA, says [Gene Haislip, retired DEA agent from the office of diversion control].
“For a DEA official to put his or her neck on the line to block a company’s requested quota increase takes an awful lot of guts and a lot of hard work, particularly if that company is supporting members of Congress who have the power to block the agency’s funding,” he said.
All the big-name pharmaceutical companies that make Oxycodone products — including, but not limited to, Pfizer, Purdue Pharma and Endo Pharmaceuticals — are members of PhRMA. They also spend additional millions lobbying annually for their own specific interests. And they are the biggest donors to a national a nonprofit organization known as the American Pain Foundation. According to the organization’s most recent annual report, the American Pain Foundation had a budget of roughly $5 million for 2010. Endo Pharmaceuticals, the maker of a variety of Oxycodone-based painkillers including Percocet, gave more than $1 million. Pfizer and Purdue donated between $100,000 and a half-million last year.
And PhRMA can’t have us pesky medical marijuana meddlers exposing hard science about cannabis’s superior pain killing properties and people using medical marijuana to wean themselves off the products they’ve spent $20,000,000 to protect and promote. They can’t have the $5,000,000 they’ve spent on creating the need and marketing the solution to pain turning more people to cannabis instead of opioids. So they’re going to have their servants – on both sides of the aisle – see to it that doesn’t happen.