Issue in Focus

Combating the Opioid Crisis: Investigations


Current Investigations

In addition to earlier investigations, our Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee launched a series of investigations into the opioid epidemic in 2017. Those investigations include: fentanyl, a synthetic opioid; alleged pill dumping; and patient brokering. In addition, the subcommittee has also reviewed various state level responses to the epidemic.

Alleged Pill Dumping

In May 2017, the committee opened an investigation into the distribution of prescription opioids by wholesale drug distributors, with a specific focus on distribution practices in West Virginia, and enforcement practices by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) during the opioid epidemic.

Patient Brokering

Following reports of “patient brokers” who are serving as intermediaries and profiting from the recruitment of patients seeking treatment for addiction, the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee initiated an investigation into the allegations in July 2017, highlighting a need for greater oversight and accountability of treatment centers.

  • In July 2017, bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to HHS citing news reports about such facilities, which said that brokers can be paid anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for each patient who they get to enter into a treatment center. These reports also touted free services to lure vulnerable patients looking for help, including free rent, cigarettes, and manicures.
  • In November 2017, bipartisan committee leaders sent letters to departments of six state governments (AZ, CA, CO, FL, MA, and PA) on patient brokering allegations.
  • In December 2017, the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee held a hearing examining patient broker schemes and other concerns of fraud and abuse in the treatment industry.

Fentanyl

Fentanyl is synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, it is the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths.  It is easy and very cheap to illicitly manufacture and has been appearing in communities across the country, mostly coming from China and clandestine labs in Mexico.

  • In February 2017, bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) seeking details about the federal government’s response to the threat of fentanyl.
  • In March 2017, the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee held a hearing examining the unique and emerging public health threat of fentanyl.
  • In April 2017, the ONDCP responded to the committee’s letter, highlighting the severity of the fentanyl crisis and discussing the challenges the drug presents to law enforcement in particular.
  • In November 2017, bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to DEA regarding the use of pill presses in fentanyl pill mills.

Visit energycommerce.house.gov/opioids for more information on our overall efforts to Combat the Opioid Crisis