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A top official at the Drug Enforcement Administration has stepped down after reports indicated that he previously engaged in consulting work for the pharmaceutical industry.
Louis Milione, who was appointed in August 2021 to be principal deputy administrator, the agency’s second-ranking position, resigned after the Associated Press reported that Milione had consulted for several large pharmaceutical companies, including Purdue Pharma, a defunct company which was accused of helping to facilitate the opioid crisis.
“Working for Purdue Pharma should not help you get a higher job in government,” Jeff Hauser, the executive director of the Revolving Door Project, told the AP. “Too much collegiality is a problem. It’s hard to view your past and potentially future colleagues as scofflaws. Any independent person would find this abhorrent.”
Milione first worked in the DEA from 1997 to 2017 before he left government work for the private sector. He was paid $600 an hour by Purdue Pharma to consult after they were sued by Ohio and Oklahoma over their marketing for the addictive painkiller OxyContin.
Other work in the pharmaceutical industry included giving testimony for drug wholesaler Morris & Dickson, a company that faced scrutiny after a judge said it should lose its license to ship painkillers. The DEA did not move on that recommendation until four years later.
In May, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said the company failed to acknowledge “full extent of their wrongdoing … and the potential harm it caused.”
According to his bio from the DEA, Milione “is a recognized expert on a broad range of issues, including transnational illicit networks, the diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances, narco-terrorism, America’s opioid epidemic and the threat of synthetic drugs.”
The resignation was reportedly due to personal reasons and not recent reports. “I care deeply about the DEA, its mission and the brave men and women that sacrifice so much to protect the American public,” Milione said in a statement.
He was first brought in through a loophole that meant that he would not have to be confirmed by the Senate. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said the news only raised more questions about the administration of the DEA.
“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,” Grassley said. “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?”