Opioid epidemic: ex-DEA official says Congress is protecting drug makers

Joseph Rannazzisi accuses lawmakers of putting US pharmaceutical companies’ $9bn-a-year trade in opioid painkillers ahead of a public health crisis

A former top Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official has accused Congress of putting pharmaceutical company profits ahead of public health in the battle to combat the US’s prescription opioid epidemic.

Joseph Rannazzisi, head of the DEA office responsible for preventing prescription medicine abuse until last year, said drug companies and their lobbyists have a “stranglehold” on Congress to protect a $9bn a year trade in opioid painkillers claiming the lives of nearly 19,000 people a year.

Related: DEA reduces opioid production in US amid painkiller addiction epidemic

Related: Opioid painkiller study: 66% of patients keep leftover pills after treatment

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