Following McCaskill Request, Department of Justice Inspector General to Investigate Opioid Enforcement

WASHINGTON – Following a request from U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General yesterday announced a review of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s efforts to combat illegal opioid distribution through enforcement actions against opioid distributors.

“I’ve had serious concerns that enforcement actions against opioid distributors have amounted to a slap on the wrist and the decision by the Department of Justice’s watchdog was a much-needed step,” said McCaskill, a former prosecutor. “We’re in the midst of a national epidemic—an epidemic that has taken the lives of thousands of Missourians—and if there’s clear evidence that distributors or manufacturers have acted illegally there needs to be every effort to hold them fully accountable.” 

In March, McCaskill requested that the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General conduct an investigation into the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration to hold major drug distributors accountable for opioid diversion. In her letter to Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, McCaskill raised concerns that the fines recently levied against opioid distributors for major infractions were inadequate given the scale of the opioid problem within the United States and the severity of the infractions. McCaskill also questioned whether changes to Drug Enforcement Administration standards and pressure from senior officials have undermined enforcement efforts. 

Earlier this year, McCaskill launched a wide-ranging investigation into opioid manufacturers to explore whether pharmaceutical manufacturers—at the head of the opioids pipeline—have contributed to opioid overutilization and overprescription as overdose deaths in the last fifteen years have approached nearly 200,000.