Opioids, a Drug Czar, and Congress

Explosive Exposé Reveals Relationships Between Opioid Crisis and Congress


The number of opioid overdoses is steadily increasing (courtesy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse).

Samantha Street, Staff Writer

On October 15, “60 Minutes” broke a shocking story about Congressman Tom Marino of Pennsylvania. The piece created in collaboration with The Washington Post shed light on the opioid crisis, Congress, and drug companies.

Marino had been nominated “drug czar” by President Donald Trump, but Marino declined to accept after the story broke. Drug czar is the colloquial name of the person in charge of federal drug control policy. Marino was revealed to be passing legislation that made it harder for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to regulate companies. The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act introduced by Marino made it more difficult for the DEA to freeze suspicious orders of opioids from pharmacies. Marino’s bill made it easier for untrustworthy doctors to prescribe opioids to people who do not need them. With 15,000 people overdosing on prescription opioids in 2015, this is even more concerning (CDC).

Congressman Marino’s district, Pennsylvania’s District 10, has been ravaged by the opioid crisis, but he has received $100,000 in campaign contributions from drug companies (The Washington Post). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 90 people die every day of opioid overdoses in the United States. The companies that may be responsible for these opioids are some of the biggest lobbyists in Congress. These companies have spent over $145 million in lobbying this year (Center for Responsive Politics). This raises the question of how much influence these companies hold over Congress.

These companies have been profiting off of addicts with little thought of the consequences and the government has largely turned a blind eye. Some companies have even been sued for fueling the opioid crisis (NPR). Many experts say that doctors are overprescribing these drugs, but Congress has made it much harder for the DEA to prevent this. Fraudulent doctors and pharmaceutical companies have been profiting off the lack of regulations, all the while influencing our government.

Recent events have certainly shed light on these companies and their influence on the U.S. government. It remains to be seen if these revelations will make a noticeable impact on lobbying and policy. Something needs to be done to prevent the influence of drug companies on legislation. The DEA should be able to restrict the flow of opioids quickly and effectively, but this cannot happen when that ability is being stripped away by Congress. The opioid crisis is affecting the lives of many and the government should be working to stop it, not profit off Americans’ addiction.