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DOJ upping scrutiny of pharma companies that make, market opioids

Although there seems to be no material disagreement regarding whether states across the country are battling a mass opioid-addiction problem, there are myriad questions concerning the source of the so-called "crisis" and related matters.

Are overprescribing doctors primarily to blame? What about select pharmacy outlets and chains that are pointed to as being especially prominent players when it comes to doling out potent narcotic medicines? How much of a role does street crime play?

And what about pharmaceutical companies, which make, market and sell drugs like codeine, morphine, fentanyl and oxycontin that eventually find their way to large numbers of consumers?

There is a long list of individuals and companies involved to a degree with the making and dispensing of opioids. Given that reality, many people might reasonably posit that the blame game linked with bad-case opioid outcomes would collectively target a wide-ranging cast of professionals and entities.

And that is indeed the case, although one actor is currently being singled out for attention in an especially prominent way.

That is the aforementioned pharmaceutical industry, which is decidedly in the cross hairs of federal criminal and civil regulators. Large-scale manufacturers and distributors are being heavily scrutinized these days by legislators and law enforcers, who seek to connect a notable face to the nation's prescription drug problem.

Jeff Sessions, the nation's Attorney General, recently announced the DOJ's intervention in a federal lawsuit against such companies. In doing so, he referenced their "false, deceptive and unfair marketing of opioid drugs." Sessions also noted that a new federal task force will be closely scrutinizing such entities and looking to mete out both criminal and civil penalties in select instances.

Pharma CEOs and other principals likely feel that they are being especially singled out as convenient and notably high-profile targets in what is arguably a new War on Drugs.

Whether that is true or not, the health care industry can fully expect further squeezing on the regulatory front. That has always been the case for what is an exceptionally tightly overseen realm, with the future hardly signaling a departure from the norm.

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