The opioid crisis in the U.S. burst into full view over the weekend based on an investigation by the Washington Post and "60 Minutes" that showed drug distributors co-opting a few in Congress to pass a law that, beginning a year and a half ago, neutered any attempts by the Drug Enforcement Agency to halt even wildly suspicious shipments of the narcotics. This, even though the opioid crisis has already claimed more than 200,000 lives and created addictions that wrecked far more, in what the Post calls "the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history. (Here is the main Washington Post article and a transcript of the "60 Minutes" piece, including an interview with a whistleblower.)
Already, Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), one of the three members of Congress singled out for pushing the legislation, has withdrawn as the nominee to be the drug czar in the Trump administration, and this story feels like it has legs. The president, who said in early August that he would declare opioids a national crisis, now says he will do so next week, adding official impetus to what will surely be a major effort among journalists.
When I was an editor at the Wall Street Journal, someone once described the ultimate story by an investigative journalist. It would begin: "There are a lot of bad people in the world. Here are their names...."
Well, journalists are going to be naming names on the opioid crisis and telling stories of those killed or crippled. McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen are already being singled out, as the three biggest drug distributors, but there will be many more.
That coverage will create a platform for the many in the insurance world, especially workers' comp and healthcare, who have been sounding the alarm on opioids. We at ITL have been supportive, most notably in a manifesto back in February by Joe Paduda. Warning: "Pill-pushers" is the nicest term he uses to describe the drug distributors, which he says should have to pay to solve the crisis that he believes they created. If you're interested, search on "opioids" at the website, and you'll find many more articles, on various aspects of the problem.
We will now move into high gear, to try to take the opportunity to make headway on this huge problem. We welcome any thoughts you'd like to publish with us and will do all we can to help spread the word on ways to attack the crisis.
More generally, you'll also see us focus more on healthcare. I never believed that Washington, as dysfunctional as it is, would come up with some wonderful, clean solution to health insurance, but the drama needed to play out. Now that it has, we'll be publishing more pieces on ways that the private sector can both improve care and tame costs. The problem is daunting, but I assure you, just based on conversations I'm having, that an awful lot of smart people have a huge number of creative ideas. We'll bring as many as we can to the fore.