In October, we joined forces with the Washington Post and reported a disturbing story of Washington at its worst – about an act of Congress that crippled the DEA’s ability to fight the worst drug crisis in American history – the opioid addiction crisis. Now, a new front of that joint investigation. It is also disturbing. It’s the inside story of the biggest case the DEA ever built against a drug company: the McKesson Corporation, the country’s largest drug distributor. It’s also the story of a company too big to prosecute.
In 2014, after two years of painstaking inquiry by nine DEA field divisions and 12 U.S. Attorneys, investigators built a powerful case against McKesson for the company’s role in the opioid crisis.
Our reporting turned up the leader of the DEA team, David Schiller, who tells for the first time how his investigators hit a brick wall in Washington when they tried to hold the powerful company accountable.
David Schiller: This is the best case we’ve ever had against a major distributor in the history of the Drug Enforcement Administration. How do we not go after the number one organization? In the height of the epidemic, when people are dying everywhere, doesn’t somebody have to be held accountable? McKesson needs to be held accountable.
Holding McKesson accountable meant going after the 5th largest corporation in the country. Headquartered in San Francisco, McKesson has 76,000 employees and earns almost $200 billion a year in revenues, about the same as Exxon Mobil. Since the 1990s, McKesson has made billions from the distribution of addictive opioids.
David Schiller: I was with DEA for over 30 years. I was the Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Denver Field Division.
Bill Whitaker: How many people did you supervise?
David Schiller: Approximately 100.