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Issue in Focus

Combating the Opioid Crisis: Investigations

Current Investigations

In addition to earlier investigations, our Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee launched a series of investigations into the opioid epidemic in 2017. Those investigations include: fentanyl, a synthetic opioid; alleged pill dumping; patient brokering; and the potential role of opioid manufacturers in the crisis. In addition, the subcommittee has also reviewed various state level responses to the epidemic.

Opioid Manufacturers

In August 2018, the committee opened an investigation into opioid manufacturers. Bipartisan committee leaders sent letters to three opioid manufacturers (Insys Therapeutics, Inc., Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, and Purdue Pharma L.P.) regarding their potential role in the opioid crisis. The individual letters highlight the complexity of the opioid crisis, which claims the lives of more than 115 Americans every day.

Alleged Pill Dumping

In May 2017, the committee opened an investigation into the distribution of prescription opioids by wholesale drug distributors, with a specific focus on distribution practices in West Virginia, and enforcement practices by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) during the opioid epidemic.  In December 2018, the committee released a report summarizing its findings after concluding its bipartisan investigation.

Patient Brokering

Following reports of “patient brokers” who are serving as intermediaries and profiting from the recruitment of patients seeking treatment for addiction, the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee initiated an investigation into the allegations in July 2017, highlighting a need for greater oversight and accountability of treatment centers.

  • In July 2017, bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to HHS citing news reports about such facilities, which said that brokers can be paid anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for each patient who they get to enter into a treatment center. These reports also touted free services to lure vulnerable patients looking for help, including free rent, cigarettes, and manicures.
  • In November 2017, bipartisan committee leaders sent letters to departments of six state governments (AZ, CA, CO, FL, MA, and PA) on patient brokering allegations.
  • In December 2017, the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee held a hearing examining patient broker schemes and other concerns of fraud and abuse in the treatment industry.
  • In May 2018, bipartisan committee leaders sent letters to eight call aggregators, who play a role in connecting individuals seeking treatment to sober living homes. The letters pose several detailed questions about the business practices of these call aggregators.
  • In July 2018, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a second hearing examining advertising and marketing practices within the substance use treatment industry.
  • In October 2019, Energy & Commerce Republicans launched a new phase of this investigation, requesting information on various aspects of the substance use disorder treatment industry to build on the findings from last Congress.


Fentanyl is synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, it is the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths.  It is easy and very cheap to illicitly manufacture and has been appearing in communities across the country, mostly coming from China and clandestine labs in Mexico.

  • In February 2017, bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) seeking details about the federal government’s response to the threat of fentanyl.
  • In March 2017, the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee held a hearing examining the unique and emerging public health threat of fentanyl.
  • In April 2017, the ONDCP responded to the committee’s letter, highlighting the severity of the fentanyl crisis and discussing the challenges the drug presents to law enforcement in particular.
  • In November 2017, bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to DEA regarding the use of pill presses in fentanyl pill mills.
  • In June 2018, bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding its Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) and ongoing efforts to stop the importation of illegal opioids and other potentially harmful products coming through international mail facilities (IMFs).
  • In September 2018, bipartisan committee leaders sent letters to the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and DEA regarding the shipment of fentanyl and its analogues from China, and the trafficking of fentanyl and its analogues over the Southwest border by Mexican cartels into the United States.