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Sep-15-2014 23:15printcomments

Outrage Over Missing Emails But Not the US Opioid/Heroin Epidemic

The US Senate Committee on Finance focuses on Lois Lerner and the IRS emails and not the prescription opioid/heroin national epidemic!! Why?

heroin epidemic
"Chasing the Dragon" Image courtesy: St. Louis Magazine

(MYRTLE BEACH, SC) - On May 8, 2012 Senator Charles E. Grassley and Senator Max Baucus, Chairman of the US Senate Committee wrote a letter to John H. Stewart, President and CEO of Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin. Here is the first paragraph of the letter:

"As Chairman and a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, we have a responsibility to the more than 100 million Americans who receive health care under Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP.

"As part of that responsibility, this Committee has investigated the marketing practices of pharmaceutical and medical device companies as well as their relationships with physicians and non-profit medical organizations."

The letter continued with the following statements:

"It is clear that the United States is suffering from an epidemic of accidental deaths and addiction resulting from the increased sale and use of powerful narcotic painkillers.

"There is growing evidence pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and market opioids may be responsible, at least in part, for this epidemic by promoting misleading information about the drugs' safety and effectiveness. In 2007, top executives from Purdue Pharma, the original manufacturer of OxyContin, one of the most notorious and heavily abused painkillers, "pleaded guilty in federal court to criminal charges that they misled regulators, doctors and patients about the drug's risk of addiction and its potential to be abused.".

"We look forward to hearing from you by no later than June 8, 2012."

It is now almost 28 months past the deadline of Purdue Pharma complying with the Senate Finance Committee's request to provide information as contained in their letter.

A link to the letter is provided here

So where is the Senate Finance Committee in their investigation? You know, the investigation dealing with "an epidemic of accidental deaths and addiction resulting from the increased sale and use of powerful narcotic painkillers"?

It appears the Senate Finance Committee has set its sights on an investigation into the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) handling of certain applications for tax-exempt status.

In particular they are focusing on records pertaining to Lois Lerner, the former Director of Exempt Organizations. The Committee's interest in the IRS was peaked when they learned Lois Lerner's computer malfunctioned in June 2011, and the IRS could not produce emails sent and received by Lerner before June 2011.

On June 19, 2014 Orrin G. Hatch, Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to John Koskinen the Commissioner of the IRS. An excerpt of that letter is shown below:

"As a result of these limitations, the Committee will never be able to access all relevant emails sent and received from Ms. Lerner for a two-year period that is central to our investigation. I am greatly dismayed by this development, but I am even more concerned about why it took so long for the IRS to discover this critical problem, and why once discovered it took so long for the IRS to bring it to the Committee's attention when you understood that we were diligently working towards the release of a bi-partisan report.

"Indeed, we now know that the IRS informed the Treasury Department, which in turn informed the White House, about Ms. Lerner's lost emails in April. It is outrageous that the IRS waited an additional two months to inform the Committee."

Here is a link to Senator Hatch's letter to the IRS in its entirety

"Outrageous" Senator Hatch, that the IRS waited an additional two months to inform you?

No. It is outrageous that the deaths and addictions to prescription opioids/heroin affecting tens of thousands of people in all 50 states doesn't "dismay" you or the Senate Finance Committee. Money takes precedent over a national epidemic killing countless people, Senator Hatch.

Maybe it's time for the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary to take up the investigation of prescription opioids/heroin initiated two years ago by the Finance Committee -- and dropped like a hot coal.

The Judiciary Committee's area of expertise is federal criminal law, as well as human rights, immigration law, intellectual property rights, antitrust law, and Internet privacy.

Wouldn't criminal law and human rights, as regards this deadly epidemic, fall into the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee? But wait -- what about Internet privacy -- wouldn't that fall into the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee and the IRS not being accountable for emails? Confusing isn't it?

The members of the US Senate Judiciary Committee are as follows:

Senator Patrick Leahy, Vermont (Chairman)
Senator Dianne Feinstein, California
Senator Charles Schumer, New York
Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island
Senator Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota
Senator Al Franken, Minnesota
Senator Christopher A. Coons, Delaware
Senator Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut
Senator Mazie Hirono, Hawaii
Senator Chuck Grassley, Iowa
Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Utah
Senator Jeff Sessions, Alabama
Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
Senator John Cornyn, Texas
Senator Michael S. Lee, Utah
Senator Ted Cruz, Texas
Senator Jeff Flake, Arizona

Since it is blatantly obvious that the Senate Finance Committee has no interest in ending the deaths and addictions due to prescription opioids/heroin, I urge those families affected by the loss of loved ones to express their outrage to the Senate Judiciary Committee and demand they intervene.

Should the issue be the impropriety of the IRS and Lois Lerner's missing emails -- or the loss of human life? It seems to be obvious to everyone but the Senate Finance Committee.

LP - If I could live anywhere in the U.S. would it be West Virginia? Do I have to go through Tennessee to get there? Love you Rand McNally!


Marianne Skolek is an Investigative Reporter focusing on the Prescription Opioid/Heroin Epidemic in the U.S. and Canada. In particular, Marianne has covered the criminal marketing of OxyContin going back to 1999 and continuing to the present.

In 2002, Marianne lost her daughter, Jill to prescribed OxyContin which her physician referred to as "mobility in a bottle." It was, in fact, death in a bottle. After doing extensive research on the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, Marianne began working with the Department of Justice in Virginia in their criminal investigation into Purdue Pharma and in July 2007 was asked by the U.S. Attorney John Brownlee prosecuting the case to testify against the three CEO's of Purdue Pharma, Michael Friedman, Paul Goldenheim, MD and Howard Udell, Chief Counsel. The CEO's pleaded guilty to misleading the medical profession about the dangers of OxyContin. Marianne also testified against Purdue Pharma at a Judiciary Hearing of the U.S. Senate in July 2007.

Marianne's research, writing and contact with government agencies and attorneys has also exposed the heavily funded pain foundations set up by the pharmaceutical industry and their paid physician spokespersons who convinced the medical boards in 50 states and Canada that dangerous opioids such as OxyContin were less likely to be addictive. These physicians also downplayed the risks of addictive opioids in books as authors. These books are still available for sale and promoted to the medical profession.

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Dave September 22, 2014 9:03 am (Pacific time)

Marianne- I'm not surprised that you are aware of what is going on at the Federal level with regard to the National Pain Strategy. I think it may help your readers if you would share your views on the "Strategy".

Marianne Skolek September 17, 2014 4:36 pm (Pacific time)

"Dave" interesting that you hope I have taken a "gander" at the IPRCC and the "National Pain Strategy." Yes I have and also know that Scott M. Fishman, MD and Rollin Gallagher, MD are heavily involved in the strategy serving on the Board. Credibility? None.

Dave September 16, 2014 6:06 am (Pacific time)

When I contacted Grassleys office earlier this year, they told me they completed the investigation into the opioids and were deciding what actions to take. But, I am not surprised they did nothing. When Senator Harkins held a hearing on Pain Care in America- nothing came out of it, as well. Members of Congress are, obviously, asleep at the switch, when it comes to developing a vision and energetic plan to address the opioid mess and poor pain care in America. I dont think their lack of concern was due to neoliberal paralysis- but, rather, a lack of concern with regard to people in pain and substance abuse. Next year, I will be writing a book- "Can't Get it Right, Pain Care in America". To me, the failure of pain care is the result of lack of caring on the part of Government an the health care industry.But again, Marianne, I hope you will hav a gander at the IPRCC and the "National Pain Strategy".

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