Former DEA special agent David Schiller sat down with “60 Minutes” Sunday, and claimed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was too “intimidated” to prosecute one of the nation’s largest opioid manufactures.
McKesson Corporation is a pharmaceutical company headquartered in San Francisco. They are the fifth-largest public corporation in the United States and took in almost $200 billion in revenue last year, according to CBS. Schiller spent two years investigating the company for distribution violations, and each time he tried to close the case, he was met with resistance from his superiors.
“This is the best case we’ve ever had against a major distributor in the history of the Drug Enforcement Administration. How do we not go after the number one organization, in the height of the epidemic,” he said. “Doesn’t someone have to be held accountable? McKesson needs to be held accountable.”
During his investigation, Schiller discovered McKesson was distributing millions of pills to pharmacies nationwide, and turning a blind eye to the suspiciously high quantity of medication being requested.
“They did not maintain any sort of due diligence,” he said. “It was happening in Los Angeles, it was happening in Detroit Michigan, it was happening in New York City. It was a national problem and nobody wanted to deal with it.”
Schiller said Mckesson also lowered the threshold for how many pills pharmacies were allowed to order to avoid the need for any further investigation. “There’s not a bigger problem we have in the United States. And who led to the problem? Mckesson was at the forefront.”
Despite agreeing to pay $13.3 million in fines back in 2008 for distribution violations, McKesson continued supplying opioids to suspicious pharmacies and doctors who were suspected of being fronts from criminal organizations.
“They had hundreds of thousands of suspicious orders they should have reported and they didn’t report anything,” Schiller said. “There’s not a day that goes by in the pharmaceutical world, in the McKesson world, in the distribution world where there isn’t something suspicious. It happens every day.”
Each time Schiller attempted to build a case, his superiors would put up road blocks and discourage him from digging any deeper.
“The problem is when we took the cases and eight boxes of evidence to the attorneys at the highest level in DEA, they would tell us right away, ‘Let’s just settle.’ Settle? How do you settle when you have to go in with a court order and shut down a billion dollar distribution center,” Schiller said. “We’re not going to accept that in the field. So we fought for years and we were unsuccessful, is the bottom line. We had to settle.”
McKesson was fined $150 million by the Department of Justice in January, but Schiller said this was just a slap on the wrist. He had previously been lobbying his bosses for a $1 billion fine, and prison time for certain executives. Schiller claims the DEA and Department of Justice shied away from the fight because they were “intimidated” by Mckesson’s high powered legal.
“There was back room deals being cut that we didn’t know about. I didn’t know about. And I was representing the DEA nationally on the investigation at the highest level,” Schiller said. “How do you settle? How do you say it’s okay? How do you do that? No, put them in jail. You put the people who are responsible for dealing drugs, for breaking the law in jail. Nobody’s in jail. They wrote a check.”
When asked if he thought Mckesson was getting special treatment from the government, Schiller said, “I don’t think, I know they were getting special treatment. They were getting treatment like I’d never seen in my 30 year career.” A member of DEA’s senior leadership team emailed Schiller during the investigation and told him they had no choice but to back off because of political pressure from the top.
“David … I’m totally against settling, but how do we hold their feet to the fire,” the email read. “Our attorney’s have us over a barrel with their refusal to go to court.”
Schiller said he was shocked by how far the government was willing to go to squash the case, and he believes people need to know the truth.
“I saw what’s happening to our country now with this epidemic. I saw the limitations being placed on us by our own people and chief counsel,” he said. “People don’t like to hear the truth. I’m doing it because the truth needs to be told.”
McKesson declined to be interviewed by “60 minutes” but released a brief statement to CBS, calling their settlement the best way to move past a “disagreement” with the DEA and DOJ.
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