NH Sen. Maggie Hassan. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- Fresh off an appearance Sunday night on "60 Minutes," New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 it's time to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for the nationwide opioid addiction crisis.
The "60 Minutes" segment featured a former DEA agent who said his agency hit a brick wall as they tried to hold a pharma giant, McKesson Corporation, responsible for its role in the epidemic.
Hassan said the incident is proof of why Washington needs to step in.
"You heard DEA officials last night talking about the possibility of pursuing criminal liability if there's a case for it," she said. "We know that about 100 people a day are dying across this country from opioid overdoses. This is an extraordinary and devastating epidemic, and we need to be doing everything we can to help the pharmaceutical industry understand that they had a part to play in this. They've been aggressively marketing opioids, even when they knew how addictive and devastating they could be, and we have got to hold the industry accountable."
Hassan says prescription opioids are being overprescribed, and claims the industry is doing everything it can to keep the epidemic going.
She says that, in some small towns, there are millions more opioids being delivered than there are people.
"The pharmaceutical industry is making extraordinary amounts of money off of opioids, and it's really clear they're structurally incapable of making the needed changes on their own," she said. "Right now, these folks are culturally and structurally, folks being the industry, incapable of restraining themselves or changing their behavior, and we're going to have to hold them accountable in ways that force them to do that."
McKesson Corporation was eventually fined $150 million, which Sen. Hassan described as a drop in the bucket.
"Your listeners should know that McKesson makes about $100 million a week in profits, about $5 billion a year," she said. "Their CEO makes almost $100 million a year, based on recent reports."
So what can be done?
Hassan said efforts to get resources to people on the front lines, as well as support for treatment and prevention, is important. She also said she is supporting legislation to empower the DEA.
"I've co-sponsored a bill to repeal the law that was passed last year that makes it harder for the DEA to do their job," she said. "I've co-sponsored a bill that would really crack down on the cozy relationship and the revolving door between the DEA and industry. But we all have to keep pushing to keep the industry accountable."
She's also trying to get funding for the opioid crisis.
"The President's commission on the opioid crisis had some good recommendations, but so far they haven't backed up any of those recommendations with the dollars that would really allow us to implement them on the front lines," she said.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Carl Stevens reports