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AMERICAN CARTEL

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 1 month, 1 week ago

18 August 2022 AMERICAN CARTEL: INSIDE THE BATTLE TO BRING DOWN THE OPIOID INDUSTRY by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz, Grand Central Publishing/Twelve, July 2022, 416p., ISBN: 978-1-5387-3720-0

 

“I was dreaming when I wrote this

So sue me if I go too fast

But life is just a party 

And parties weren’t meant to last”

– Prince, who died at 57 from a fentanyl overdose.

 

“A federal judge on Wednesday ordered three of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains — CVS, Walgreens and Walmart — to pay $650.5 million to two Ohio counties, ruling that the companies must be held accountable for their part in fueling the opioid epidemic.

The decision is a companion piece to a November jury verdict that found the companies had continued to dispense mass quantities of prescription painkillers over the years while ignoring flagrant signs that the pills were being abused.

The ruling is the first by a federal judge that assigns a firm money figure against the pharmacy chains for their roles in the opioid crisis. Here, the judge, Dan A. Polster of United States District Court in northern Ohio, who has overseen more than 3,000 cases in the opioid litigation, ruled that the pharmacies bore responsibility for one-third of the amount that Ohio’s hard-hit Lake and Trumbull counties need to address the continuing damage wrought by the epidemic.”

– NY Times, “CVS, Walgreens and Walmart Must Pay $650.5 Million in Ohio Opioids Case” (8/17/2022)

 

Do you know anyone who is addicted to opioids? I do.

 

Between reading and reviewing books for young people, I occasionally read adult nonfiction. I don’t usually write about those books here. But in the case of AMERICAN CARTEL, I’m hoping that librarians adding it to their teen collections will enable young people to become educated on this topic, possibly helping themselves or a friend, sibling, cousin, or parent to understand the epidemic of opioid addiction. It could well save a life.

 

AMERICAN CARTEL is an up-to-the-minute history of the opioid epidemic in America, by a pair of Pulitzer-winning Washington Post journalists. The authors are public figures, often featured on TV and in newspaper articles. For example, they were frequently quoted this week regarding the announcement of the Ohio decision. Judge Polster, quoted above, is an important character in this book. 

 

It’s mind-boggling to think about the hundreds of millions of addictive opioid pills that were dumped into circulation by drug manufacturers, drug distributors, pill mills aka pain clinics, and the quack doctors who staffed them. Those pills have sown a lot of misery and death.

 

AMERICAN CARTEL is a gripping expose that reveals the dirty side of free enterprise in America. We see both commercial enterprises and physicians turning a blind eye to the addiction caused by these pills, because pushing them was so profitable. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been and still are living dead-end lives, overdosing, and dying.

 

“‘Eighty-one million pills distributed to a community of a hundred thousand people or less isn’t a substantial factor in the opioid epidemic. It will cause an opioid epidemic. I want to start with that premise,’ Paul told the judge.

– from attorney Paul Farrell’s closing statement in a trial chronicled by the authors.

 

The star good-guy in the story is Joe Rannazzisi, who was a previous chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Office of Diversion Control. He did such a great job that drug manufacturers, distributors, and sellers lobbied and donated to politicians in order to pressure them to change the laws and remove Joe’s enforcement tools. They actually exerted sufficient pressure to get Joe fired in 2015. Joe has spent much of the subsequent time testifying about the opioid epidemic.  (You can see him in the 2017 60 Minutes segment, “The Whistle Blower,” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd-43K-rdQA)

 

There are many bad guys. They include well-known members of Congress bought by the drug companies; and former DEA executives and attorneys who have chosen to make a lot of money by leaving their government gigs, going to work for Big Pharma, and helping the manufacturers and distributors more effectively evade regulation and oversight. This industry-regulator-industry revolving door has been a target of good government reformers for decades, but has never been fixed. The result of failing to rein it in has been deadly. 

 

AMERICAN CARTEL exposes the workings of industry and government and how they can operate to the detriment of Americans.  It’s fascinating, heartbreaking, and enlightening, a must-have for any high school library collection.

 

Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com

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