One of the worst aspects of the opioid epidemic is the fact that it could have been fixed YEARS ago, had it not been for corporate-owned politicians. Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins discuss this issue.


Mike Papantonio: One of the worst aspects of the opioid epidemic is the fact that it could have been fixed years ago had it not been for corporate-owned politicians. This story, to me, is nauseating, and I know we’ve told parts of this story. This story is going to be told more and more, Farron, as the litigation continues, but the thumbnail sketch is this. In our effort to become tribal in our politics, that is that Democrats do no harm if you’re a Democrat, Republicans do no harm if you’re a Republican, and we’re incapable of actually looking back and saying, “What’s real and what’s not real,” and this is a perfect situation. Okay?

So, let me not be tribal here as I tell this story. Since I’m one of the people taking the depositions of these opioid distributors that distributed opioids all over the country, it makes me a little angry because I’m seeing firsthand what actually happened, and we want to believe that somewhere in the political scale in the realm of politics, somebody says, “You know what? Sometimes corporate money just isn’t important to me, and I’m gonna do the right thing,” and I wish we could’ve said that about the eight years during the Obama Administration.

Let me preface it by saying, as you probably know, I appeared on television show after television show, everything from CNN to MSNBC to Fox News, supporting President Obama, but I gotta call shots like I see them. Now we learn that during the opioid crisis, the very worst time of the opioid crisis, that the attorney general who had been appointed by Obama was Eric Holder, and Eric Holder came from a law firm called the Covington Burling Law Firm in Washington DC, and he worked for them in their white-collar criminal division, and he took care of handling the cases of white-collar criminals, Wall Street white criminals, pharmaceutical white criminals, environmental polluter white-collar criminals, you name it. Those are the people that he handled. He had a partner named Houghton who was also a lawyer for Covington Burling, and Houghton represented McKesson. Pick it up from there.

Farron Cousins: Well, McKesson, what we know, during the Obama years, the DEA, actually, a local office, really, of the DEA over in Colorado had been working around the clock. They had kind of this consortium, 12 different DEAs from 11 different states. They were ready to make the move on McKesson for creating these pill mills all over the country. They had all the evidence. They could show without a doubt McKesson knew they were shipping millions of pills to towns with populations of a few thousand. They knew McKesson knew what was happening. They knew it was addictive. They knew they were the problem.

So, before these DEA officials could make this move, they had everything ready, put all their ducks in a row, it was a slam dunk, they found out that at the same time they were doing this massive investigation, that Eric Holder had worked out this sweetheart deal with McKesson to allow them basically to get off the hook. They were gonna fine them one billion dollars, is what they were gonna do. They were gonna strip their license and registration so that they couldn’t distribute these narcotics, basically, anymore, and they are, I believe, what, the third or fifth largest publicly-owned corporation, or publicly-traded, in the country, McKesson is.

Mike Papantonio: Right, right.

Farron Cousins: I mean, they’re massive, but Eric Holder had gone behind their backs, made this deal, said, “We’re gonna fine you a little bit,” a fine that actually only amounted to a few million dollars more than what McKesson’s CEO made last year.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Okay.

Farron Cousins: That’s how tiny it is.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Let me put that in terms of what’s real here. Okay? First of all, the lawyer for McKesson came from Covington & Burling, the same place that Eric Holder came from. They worked together. It wasn’t like they just were casual acquaintances. They worked together on cases. One had an office right down the hall from Eric Holder. They socialized together. They worked together. They were friends. All of a sudden, Houghton is the attorney for McKesson, and regardless of what the DEA found, and they found conduct that was absolutely … It was criminal conduct. They were prepared to go forward with a criminal case. They wanted a perp walk, is what they wanted, which has been long overdue in this business in general.

So, all of a sudden, this goes from we’re gonna do all these bad things secretly, without the DEA even knowing about it, Eric Holden and Houghton, the Department of Justice, they work out some secret deal, and all of it goes away, and by the way, the CEO of this company, when they were fined 150 million dollars, the CEO’s compensation package is 650 million dollars. The CEO’s compensation package is 650 million dollars.

So, okay. Where does all this go? It tells the story. It tells in those years that they could’ve done something. It was the absolute worst time for progression of death in America from opioids. Kids were dying from opioids. Day one, they would be injured because football injury, a cheerleading injury, minor injuries, ankle sprains, things like that, and they’re given these opioids because the doctors were lied to about the safety of opioid. The company that produced them, Purdue, told everybody, “This is safe. They’re not addictive. Don’t worry about it. This is a special kind of narcotic,” is what they were telling everybody.

So, you’ve seen it. You’ve written about it in forms over the years. You’ve kept up with this and national trial lawyers. This is the comparison. This is 1999. This is the death map of 1999. Okay? This shows … If you look at the brown here, in 1999 this was the area people were dying. That was in West Virginia. Okay? Little bit of activity out here on the West Coast, but really, out of control over in West Virginia. By 2016, this is the death map. What this represents, these brown areas that you see, just the brown area, represents 30 human lives, 30 deaths for every 100,000 people. Okay?

The tan area is kind of the mean. It’s only about 16 to 17 deaths per hundred-thousand people. The tan, as you can see, by 2016 is all over the chart. This is 1999. This is the progression of death in America. This was done by the CDC. When I showed this in a deposition to one of the witnesses, my reaction was this. He said he’d never seen it. Okay? For somebody to have never seen the CDC’s death map, every year they showed the progression of death in the United States, every single year, and as we look at this, we understand the problem is nobody did anything about it.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.