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As Homeland Security Committee Roundtable, Senator Hassan Highlights Importance of Restoring DEA Enforcement Power Over Drug Distributors in Fight Against Substance Misuse

The Senator Also Emphasizes the Importance of Slowing the Revolving Door Between the Pharmaceutical Industry and Federal Agencies, Especially Following Reports that former DEA Officials Helped Weaken DEA Enforcement Powers


For video of the roundtable click here.

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) today participated in a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee roundtable discussion focused on “Restoring the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Power Over Drug Distributors.” Senator Hassan helped introduce legislation repealing the 2016 law following media reports indicating that the DEA personnel believe that the bill restricted the ability of the DEA to crack down on opioid distributors suspected of wrongdoing.

Highlighting the important role the DEA plays in helping to combat drug diversion and dishonest prescribing practices such as “pill mills” that fuel the fentanyl, heroin, and opioid epidemic devastating communities in New Hampshire and across the country, Senator Hassan asked Joseph Rannazzisi, former DEA agent, “In your own words, can you help the public understand why it is so critical that the DEA have the power to shut down pill mills, problematic distribution centers, and other bad actors, how does that power help keep the public safe?”

In response, Mr. Rannazzisi described how “millions and millions of tablets” from those types of places end up in the illicit marketplace. He said, “A pharmacy that is filling prescriptions for rogue pain clinics, the pharmacist in charge is not doing his job – that is looking at red flags presented with the prescriptions and determining if those prescriptions are legitimate. So he’s ordering a ridiculous amount of drugs…that pharmacist is basically filling prescriptions for drug seekers, drug abusers, so all those drugs are going to the illicit marketplace…It’s a cycle, every controlled substance registrar in the controlled substance infrastructure has a responsibility to do something, and if everyone complied with their responsibilities we wouldn’t have this problem and that’s why it’s so important.”

Senator Hassan also discussed a bill she helped introduce to slow the revolving door between the pharmaceutical industry and federal agencies, following reports of how former DEA officials have played a role in the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to stop the DEA from cracking down on opioid distributors suspected of wrongdoing. When Senator Hassan asked if witnesses believed changes this legislation – the Pharmaceutical Regulation Conflict of Interest Act – makes, would help address the issue of the revolving door, Jonathan Novak, former DEA attorney, responded, “I do think that they would be helpful. I absolutely do… it is something we need to examine even more.”

The Senator also noted, “It is truly unfortunate that the DEA has decided to deny Chief  Administrative Law Judge Mulrooney the chance to participate in this discussion today.” Senator Hassan recently sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee urging them to invite the DEA Judge to testify at a hearing on the 2016 bill that undermines the DEA enforcement opioid distributors.