from the arguing-in-favor-of-prescription-drug-abuse dept
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram’s tenure has been marked by increasingly alarmist proclamations about fentanyl, social media, fentanyl, “the children,” fentanyl, “drug dealers want to kill their customers,” and… fentanyl.
Without a doubt, fentanyl is killing people. It’s not killing cops, even though they often pretend that it is. But a lack a clarity as to drug purity and/or unexpected additives have turned this powerful opioid into an inanimate mass murderer.
The death toll is horrific. But it doesn’t justify Milgram making everyone stupider. It certainly doesn’t justify legislators boarding the moral panic train to make everyone stupider. And it certainly doesn’t justify law enforcement officials engaging in mass hysteria to suggest the mere presence of the drug can be fatal to anyone in the immediate area.
Millgram’s tenure has also been marked by her lack of enthusiasm for policing the government entity she oversees. The DEA has always been problematic. It was formed to fight a drug war it has spent every year losing, no matter how many rights violations it encourages or engages in. Its handling of confidential informants has been even worse, with the DEA tacitly blessing the most hideous of criminal acts just so agents can retain connections with people who might be able to contribute to its multi-decade string of drug war losses.
An investigation into a DEA agent who conspired with a Colombian drug cartel to make the nation’s drug problem even worse was neutered by the newly arrived Milgram, who turned over investigative duties to friends and colleagues, rather than people actually willing to seek the truth. The end result was a massive waste of tax dollars to perform a cursory investigation that could have been performed by anyone with internet access and a functioning keyboard.
For all her proclamations about the power of opioids to kill Americans (starting with the children, apparently), Milgram seems largely unconcerned that there’s plenty of opioid-enabled killing being performed by pharmaceutical companies and the health care professionals they’ve urged to recommend and prescribe their toxic cocktails of choice.
Milgram presented herself as a reformer when she took office. That claim has been undone multiple times, the latest being her involvement in fed-washing a professional opioid apologist to make him appear to be a trustworthy drug warrior.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s second-in-command has quietly stepped down amid reporting by The Associated Press that he once consulted for a pharmaceutical distributor sanctioned for a deluge of suspicious painkiller shipments and did similar work for the drugmaker that became the face of the opioid epidemic: Purdue Pharma.
Louis Milione’s four years of consulting for Big Pharma preceded his 2021 return to the DEA to serve as Administrator Anne Milgram’s top deputy, renewing concerns in the agency and beyond about the revolving door between government and industry and its potential impact on the DEA’s mission to police drug companies blamed for tens of thousands of American overdose deaths.
That’s Anne Milgram all over: someone who wants to fight opioids so long as it means limiting the rights of American citizens. But when it comes to ensuring her own house remains untainted, she just simply can’t be bothered.
Governments have always been revolving doors. Government officials head to the private sectors they’ve recently done favors for. And, in many cases, they return to government work to directly regulate companies they’ve been paid handsomely to advocate for.
It’s especially egregious here. Milgram has spent months making unchallenged assertions about children’s willingness to eat fentanyl that (if you squint a bit) slightly resembles sidewalk chalk. She has suggested the federal government needs to directly involve itself with social media moderation to keep drug dealers from reaching potential customers. She has lowered the national IQ with her proclamations about fentanyl distribution, sounding more like the head of Facebook group page than a top government official when declaring any drug produced in a bright color as a concerted attempt by drug cartels to murder American children.
While she’s busy being stupid on main, she’s allowing people like Louis Milione to make the most of their drug-pushing pharma contacts while being directly involved in the regulation of prescription drugs. Milione spent 21 years working for the DEA — something he clearly felt made him completely qualified to act as a consultant for the pharmaceutical industry, including for companies he directly regulated during his prior stint at the DEA.
And he might have gotten away with it. But, unlike the presumably highly paid Milgram, journalists decided to do a background check on the DEA’s new deputy chief.
New reporting has found that during his time in the private sector, Milione also served as a $600-per-hour expert for Purdue Pharma as it fought legal challenges from Ohio to Oklahoma over its aggressive marketing of OxyContin and other highly addictive painkillers. Milione left the DEA again in late June just four days after AP sought comment from the Justice Department about his prior work for Purdue.
Milione should never have been allowed to return to the DEA. His past suggests much more than a hint of conflict of interest. The government is supposed to hold itself to a high standard because it’s utilizing the public’s trust and the public’s money to do its job. When agencies do things like this, it strongly suggests the people who sign the government’s paychecks can go fuck themselves. That’s exactly the impression every government agency — no matter how large or small — should strive to avoid.
But this shows the DEA doesn’t care. And a change in upper management probably won’t make the DEA any better than it is. And while the DOJ insists Milione filled a position created by Milgram’s predecessor, it offers no explanation as to why Milgram didn’t remove him from this position given his conflicts of interest, nor why she sent out emails praising Milione after his ascension to second-in-command.
[I]n an internal email to staff, Milgram hailed the 60-year-old Milione as a “DEA legend” best known for leading the overseas sting that in 2008 nabbed Russia’s notorious arms trafficker Viktor Bout.
“I was thrilled that he agreed to come back home to DEA,” she wrote in a June 26 email obtained by AP. “Lou has used his skills as a master case maker to help us bring cases against entire criminal networks and to investigate the entire globally fentanyl supply chain.”
Milione is now temporarily disgraced. He has retired — something that means it will be that much easier for him to return to the private sector to advocate against the DEA’s interests. His $600/hour consulting fee will likely ease the pain of this hasty retreat. And, as ever, the DEA will continue to exist, extending its streak of expensive uselessness.