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Top DEA member resigns after revelations about previous consulting for Big Pharma

The man is another example of the ethical concern of government high ups who have switched from industry to government leadership

Published: July 19, 2023 2:44pm

The second-in-command at the Drug Enforcement Administration has resigned amid a new report that he previously consulted for Big Pharma, including a company called Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical company at the center of the prescription drug opioid epidemic, which has since been sanctioned for suspicious painkiller shipments and under the spotlight amidst the opioid epidemic.

The official, Louis Milione, worked at the agency for 21 years, until 2017 when he took a job to do consulting for Big Pharma.

In 2021, Milione returned to the DEA to serve as top deputy for the Administrator Anne Milgram, according to the Associated Press.

The proper position of No. 2 for the DEA – “deputy administrator” – has been empty for years.

The position Milione held as the DEA's No. 2 – “principal deputy administrator” –  has nearly the same duties but requires neither presidential appointment nor congressional consent where scrutiny of conflict of interests could be addressed. 

In his consulting, Milione testified on behalf of Morris & Dickson, the country's fourth-largest wholesale drug distributor, which fought to preserve its license to supply painkillers to pharmacies and hospitals, AP reported in May.

Four years ago, a federal administrative judge ruled that the company, during the height of the opioid crisis, failed to flag thousands of suspicious drug orders, but it was only a few days after the wire service inquired about the case that the DEA moved to strip the company's license. 

Milione reportedly said this week that he stepped down for personal reasons, which are unrelated to the reporting on him.

He and the Justice Department also said that he kept out of matters in which there may be contention given his previous positions in the business.

Milione also said that just as his consulting helped drug companies comply with DEA standards, so does his return to the DEA give insight into how real-world business decisions are made.

The exit of Milione adds to the tumult at the top of the DEA, which includes other high level resignations and investigations into contracts given to past associates of agency Administrator Anne Milgram.

Since taking charge of the DEA in 2021, Milgram has reportedly cycled through over 30 senior aides, many of whom were veteran agents that were purportedly either edged out or quit due to differences with her.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the chamber's Budget Committee, commented that the “DEA has demonstrated a willingness to take painstaking measures to avoid the Senate’s watchful eye – including by potentially using a technicality to shirk Senate confirmation of a key agency decision maker.”

"Avoiding congressional oversight is a tired game the DEA can’t stop playing. It begs the question: What else is the DEA trying to hide?”

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