An Open Letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee

By Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D. as published in the National Pain Report.

This is edited from a letter sent to 25 legislative assistants of sitting members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  As of one week later, not one of them had responded to it.

Dear Senate Staffer:

It is likely that the December 17th article in the Washington Posts will dominate much of the Monday (12/18/2017) news with respect to the DEA’s Division of Diversion Investigation, whose staff your Senator called to testify last week.  The following points may be worth considering and talking about with your boss:

It strikes me that there may be other issues lurking in the morass described by the Washington Post piece.

DEA prosecution of major bad actors in National drug distribution corporations has been stymied by their own lawyers and by local prosecutors.  It seems highly plausible to large numbers of citizens, that DEA lawyers have been corrupted by the same revolving-door policies which have guaranteed the corporate complicity of Representatives and Senators who anticipate being paid well as lobbyists or defense lawyers if they are miraculously turned out of office by voters.

Unable or unwilling to pursue the truly major players in drug diversion, DEA instead goes after the low-hanging fruit:  small, independent pharmacies and pain management doctors in local practices.  One of these doctors is Dr. Forest Tennant, one of America’s preeminent pain management specialists, whose office records have recently been seized in a transparently obvious miscarriage of justice that amounts to unlawful persecution.

When they attack individuals, DEA “Diversion Investigators” lack the tools and training to distinguish between smaller scale pill mills versus doctors who specialize in difficult cases where high dose opioids are the only therapy that works. This was almost certainly true concerning Dr. Tennant.

Lacking such tools, DEA prosecutors instead frequently lapse into illegal and extra-legal practices:

  • Prominent announcements of doctors under investigation, intended to ruin their professional reputations and influence potential jurors.
  • Confiscation of doctor (or pharmacy) assets, to render legal defense more difficult.
  • Suborning witnesses by threatening prosecution unless they testify to doctor misbehavior.
  • Entrapment by carefully prepared investigators who disguise themselves as addicts shamming pain, to demonstrate that their lies can cause a doctor to prescribe for people who are not actually in pain.
  • Deliberate delays of prosecution, grand jury proceedings and court proceedings to put further financial pressure on doctors to sign consent decrees before cases go to court.
  • Exclusion of qualified witnesses when their testimony may support the defendant.
  • Misrepresentation of the actual qualifications or lack thereof, of government investigators and hired witnesses.

There appears to be some degree of merit in DEA investigators’ complaints over failure to prosecute major drug distributors for clear and obvious criminal negligence if not actual criminal conspiracy.  But hidden within this large picture is a second issue of deep concern to millions of people in agony:  DEA is persecuting pain doctors unfairly in a blind attempt to “do something” about a problem where they are unqualified to act with fairness.  Fix the problem with DEA corruption, by all means.  But tell them first to stand down from prosecuting doctors whose only crime is trying to help people in agony.