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Orlando Sentinel: “Florida opioid crisis: ’60 Minutes’ explores disaster”

A Florida catastrophe — the opioid crisis — makes the 51st season premiere of “60 Minutes” this weekend.

The news magazine asks: Who is more responsible, doctors like Barry Schultz, or the manufacturers and distributors who supply huge amounts of the addictive drugs?

Schultz, a former doctor who ran a West Delray practice, complains that he has been singled out unfairly in the crisis. He gives a rare interview from prison where he is serving 157 years for drug trafficking.

“I’m a scapegoat … I see myself as a healer,” Schultz tells Bill Whitaker.

Barry Schultz, left, who was sentenced to 157 years in prison, talks to Bill Whitaker on '60 Minutes.'
Barry Schultz, left, who was sentenced to 157 years in prison, talks to Bill Whitaker on ’60 Minutes.’ (60 Minutes / CBS News)

Although he made more than $6,000 a day prescribing and selling opioids, he says he knew nothing about the addiction crisis. He dispensed 800,000 opioid pills in 16 months from his clinic’s pharmacy, according to DEA records.

One patient was David Tain, who was treated for pain by Schultz after a car accident. Tain developed an addiction and overdosed on pills prescribed by Schultz.

“[Schultz] hadn’t even seen him in four and a half years,” says Carol Tain, David’s mother. “He’s a murderer and not a doctor,” she tells Whitaker. “He didn’t need a gun. He used his pen to murder my son.”

The season premiere of “60 Minutes” will start at 7:30 p.m. because of football.

Sunday’s story is Whitaker’s sixth report on the drug crisis.

In 2009 in the state, 2,900 people died of drug overdoses, mostly from prescribed opioids.

Many pills prescribed by Schultz were from a company called Mallinckrodt.

Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, says Mallinckrodt sent 500 million oxycodone pills to the state between 2008 and 2012. “We’re talking about enough pills to give every resident of Florida 25 oxycodone pills …. enough pills to create an entire state of addicts,” he says.

The DEA launched an investigation of Mallinckrodt. According to Internal Justice Department documents: “Mallinckrodt’s own data on Barry Schultz indicated that he was purchasing large amounts of oxycodone in a suspicious pattern indicated diversion.”

After the DEA investigation, the Justice Department settled charges on Mallinckrodt out of court. The drug distributor agreed to pay a fine of $35 million — less than a week’s worth of the company’s yearly revenue.

No Mallinckrodt representative goes on camera in the report. But the company says it never sold directly to Schultz, only distributors. It denied “it violated any applicable laws.”

View the original article here.