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Recent DOJ opioid proposal spotlights problem, penalties

How big is America’s prescription drug problem?

Concededly, it is huge. Indeed, safety regulators, criminal law enforcers, health groups and advocates for the legions of Americans who languish behind bars following drug crimes convictions all attest to its vast dimensions. It is often termed a “crisis.”

What underlies its occurrence?

A problem so pernicious and widespread resists a quick and easy answer. Some commentators point to pharmaceutical companies as a primary source of the problem. Critics say they purposefully overproduce opioid drugs that are highly addictive, such as oxycodone, Vicodin and codeine. Rogue doctors and pharmacies that allegedly operate as so-called “pill mills” are regularly fingered for the role they play. Drugs unlawfully produced and imported through cartel activity obviously contribute to the scourge.

And police across the country, including in Missouri, are of course busy arresting and criminally charging high numbers of small-scale participants. We note on our criminal defense website at Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry in St. Louis that controlled drugs “are usually obtained illegally either for sale or because the accused faces an addiction problem.”

The above-cited and legally operated drug companies are especially acute targets for state and federal regulators and lawmakers these days. That was notably underscored just last week by proposals announced by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. One national publication states that if Sessions’ recommendations ultimately become law, they “could severely limit the amount of highly addictive opioid pain medication that drug companies can produce.”

Federal regulators are pushing for an adjusted – read materially tightened up -- process for determining opioid manufacturing quotas. The federal scheme would simply cut the opioid production of any company deemed to be overproducing and distributing to health industry customers like pharmacies and medical clinics.

The proposals are currently at an embryonic stage and need to go through a comprehensive rulemaking phase in order to take legal effect. We will be sure to pass along all relevant details for our readers across Missouri and elsewhere if that occurs.

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