’60 Minutes’ whistleblower: Congress, pill distributors cozied up as people OD’d

Along with the rest of America last night, I learned how Congress, Pharma conspirators and even the Department of Justice itself rounded up DEA agents who were getting illicit pain pills off the street and opened up a can of Whoop Ass on them.

Yes, the men and women working to save our country from the scourge of addiction were punished by our country’s establishment for doing so.

I watched in pure horror. It reminds me of Russia. Or North Korea. Filthy politics in our country undeniably has reached a fever pitch.

“This is an industry that’s out of control,” whistleblower and former high-ranking DEA official Joe Rannazzisi told 60 Minutes. “If they don’t follow the law in drug supply, people die. That’s just it. People die.”

Responded CBS’s Bill Whitaker: “You know the implication of what you’re saying. That these big companies knew that they were pumping drugs into American communities that were killing people.”

Rannazzis’s blunt response: “That’s not an implication, that’s a fact.”

Fast-forward: In the end, he ended up being accused of and investigated for “intimidating the United States Congress” and losing his job.

Check out my portfolio of paid addiction/recovery/opioid reportage and how I got into it

Why I consider myself an expert on opioid addiction and how we got here

I began to write about opioid addiction more than three years ago while working as a freelance reporter for Healthline News.

At the time, my beats primarily were HIV and Hepatitis C.

But in the course of my reporting, one day a source told me that the group with the fastest-growing rate of Hepatitis C infection, outside of Baby Boomers who already had the disease, was young adults getting it by injecting heroin.

In wealthy suburbs.

The rest is history. “Heroin in the Suburbs: An American Epidemic,” went viral, and even was picked up by Fox News, which Healthline had a partnership with at the time.

Blowing the lid off the Indiana HIV/Hepatitis C scandal

Not much time later, another source planted a bug in my ear: Scott County, Indiana was exploding with HIV and Hepatitis C infections, all during a very short period.

How were hundreds of people contracting these chronic diseases? By sharing needles while injecting heroin and other opioids, such as the painkiller Opana.

When I called and emailed the Scott County, Indiana Health Department, one of the rudest public information officials I ever have experienced in my life flat-out told me I must have Indiana confused with Chicago.

Oh yes, he did.

Not one to be lied to when I know I’m right, I got the story anyway. You can read it right here:

As HIV devastates rural Indiana, activists ask: How could this happen?

As short time later, I followed up with:

“Activists blame Indiana HIV outbreak on officials’ ignorance about the disease.”

Click here to see my portfolio of paid writing assignments on matters of public health and infectious diseases

Of course, the Indiana story just exploded during the year following. I stayed on it throughout my Healthline tenure, and then while working as writer for HIV Equal. Later, I circled back to the story a few more times working as a writer for Foundations Recovery Network/Universal Health Services for two years until that gig ended in June.

Indeed, the Indiana story and the “Heroin in the Suburbs” story catapulted my career to a new level.

Had I listened to the dishonest PIO in Indiana, the story never would have been written.

60 Minutes report confirms what I’ve been saying for at least a year now

So, am I shocked to learn that when federal DEA agents began to round up players in pill mill schemes, they were dismissed from their jobs, even intimidated by members of Congress?

Not at all.

And my reaction to Capitol Hill Police tossing a “60 Minutes” crew right off of the Hill while the journalists reported the explosive scandal that aired last night?

Sadness. Fear.

The crux of the DEA whistleblower’s rage is aimed at distributors of opioid medications. That market is dominated by three companies, he says: Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen.

Read more: My blog post explaining why the blame for Pharma price-gouging lies with politicians

In the interest of full disclosure, I freelanced for Cardinal Health, a Fortune 500 company, until June. At that time, I asked Contently to remove me from their team.

In a piece I wrote for LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago about my career as a branded content writer, I said I am not afraid to step away from a brand if I no longer am on board with their product. And that’s exactly what I did with Cardinal Health.

I wasn’t writing about matters related to opioids; I was writing for a health care “insider-heavy” business to business blog run by Cardinal.

I did not understand the objectives of the blog, which always seemed to be changing. Nor did I care for the brand editor, who I found to be insulting, contradictory in her directions, and unable or unwilling to listen to the expertise for which I was being paid $300 per 500-word blog post.

So enough about Cardinal Health.

Never. Again. Especially after the 60 Minutes report.

Former DEA attorney offers chilling details

A second source in the 60 Minutes piece is a former DEA attorney named Jonathan Novak. Here’s what he told 60 Minutes:

“We had been achieving incredible success in an almost unstoppable wave, and then suddenly, it stopped….

“These are not cases where it was gray. These were cases where the evidence was crystal clear that there was wrongdoing going on….

“Now, three undercovers, by four officers, over three months, that wouldn’t be enough. Maybe we need an expert to explain how recording equipment works….it felt…it felt…honestly, confusing and almost insane. Where was this coming from?”

What happened? Dishonest DEA officials jumped ship to the other side, where the money is. Defending Pharma and its auxiliary machinery, nobody was better equipped to help them escape the hammer of the DOJ.

Read more: Check out my blog post explaining how this happens at the FDA as well, and why it could be making you sick

I saw so taken in by Novak, what he had to say, and how he said it – indeed, he looks like he has PTSD himself when he recalls the story – that I looked him up on LinkedIn.

Novak

Today, he works for a private law firm – defending medical cannabis dispensaries, among other things.

I tried to look the profile up a second time to catch the name of the firm, but now I can’t find it.

I don’t know Novak at all, and yet, I do understand the angst he obviously lives with —  simply because he did his job and did it well.

Will medical cannabis and those who support it be assailed next?

You can see where this is headed. Pharma and filthy politicians will be doing their darndest to slam the brakes on medical weed as it continues to gain momentum. I’m off all Pharma medications and never have felt better in my life, despite PTSD-related anxiety and angst. At least now I have found an effective medication for it.

In fact, I’m doing so much better since obtaining my medical cannabis card that I’m surviving on relatively little cannabis. And that’s a good thing, because it’s been hard times for me since losing two Fortune 500 healthcare clients in June.

Read more: Check out my blog post explaining why a Pharma rep, not your doctor, may be choosing your prescriptions

While I walked away from Cardinal Health, my extremely lucrative gig writing for Universal Health/Foundations Recovery Network ended abruptly when they chose to leave the Contently platform after two years.

Two editors, one current and one former, did offer references, for which I am extremely grateful.

I would like to think not all “Big Healthcare” companies are bad.

I live my life in fear for being a whistleblower

The 60 Minutes report is scary. You will see politicians intimidate DEA officials; indeed, you will see them chat amongst themselves as a bill to slam the brakes on DEA enforcement of distributors sails to approval on the floor.

Capitol

I know what it means to be a whistleblower.

I also know what it means to be told, “shut up or else” in so many words, and indeed I have shut my mouth as it pertains to the issue in question, and will continue to do so.

I’m scared. This isn’t the America I thought I was born into, I can tell you that.

I’m sober, successful (struggling a bit right now, but still successful) and just inherited my childhood home and sank everything I had into improving it. One would think I’d be embraced by the establishment of my community right now.

Not so much.

You can check out the 60 Minutes report for yourself right here.

Until next time.

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