Tue, Apr

MacArthur Park Drug Dealers and What Big Pharma Knew


EASTSIDER-Recently, the LA Times did an excellent investigative series about OxyContin use in LA, choreographed by the drug’s manufacturer, Purdue Pharma. 

The stories of people hooked on this stuff, and the collateral damage done to their loved ones is well presented by the Times, so I won’t even go there. Suffice it to say that their headline, “You Want a Description of Hell?” seems spot on. 

More pertinent to this article is the second part of the story, Here, with devastating detail, the Times proved beyond a reasonable doubt what the drug maker knew as it supplied hundreds of thousands of OxyContin pills to a sleazy front in MacArthur Park. 

So what do we have here other than a corrupt company pushing pills to the unsuspecting, without having to pay a price? Even if you are lucky enough not to have a loved one or relative with a drug problem, let’s consider the costs -- the costs to us, the taxpayers of Los Angeles -- as contrasted to the profits of big pharma and the even larger profits reaped by the big banks who launder the drug money. 

Our Costs--In most cities, public safety represents between 60 and 70 percent of the general fund budget and Los Angeles is no exception to the rule. That’s a lot of taxpayer money. And the more money spent on finding and apprehending drug related offenders, the less money is available for the community’s other safety concerns. We all know there exists a lot of unfunded need for public safety services. 

The LA City budget barely touches the surface of those costs such as paying for the criminal justice system required to handle all judicial matters as well as the costs of incarceration, rehabilitation, medical treatment and so forth. 

An enormous amount of money for that must come out of taxpayers’ pockets. And that doesn’t even begin to touch the human pain and suffering so eloquently described by the LA Times

We tend to shy away from a cost/benefit analysis of drug addiction and its associated expenses. But drugs and public safety are closely intertwined issues in our City, and the combination is hideously expensive, both in terms of the devastation to people and the budget-breaking costs to law enforcement -- and us. 

When dope dealers get busted, they go to jail. If addicts get caught, they also often go to jail for the crimes they committed to pay for the drugs and/or they clog up our health care system as their bodies deteriorate and they start to die dirty.

Purdue Pharma’s response to the Times article was to defend their product, OxyContin. 

They did not respond to the fact that they knew about the Lake Medical Clinic and the incredible amount of “product” that they were selling -- yet did nothing other than cover up. And back to costs, it took an entire team of federal, state and local law enforcement to build and prosecute the case. 

Their Profits--Clearly, we lose, big time. So who wins? How about the drug companies like Purdue Pharma and big financial services institutions like HSBC? In the case of Purdue Pharma, the money trail is pretty clear. They have made about $31 billion dollars selling OxyContin. 

It is also clear that Purdue Pharma decided to expand their market by targeting those with “chronic non-cancer pain,” which includes a broad swath of society. In such expanding markets, the economic winners are not only big pharma but the professional class of marketing executives, database developers, marketing collateral designers, sales forces, and middle managers. Not to mention attorneys.

It would seem, in fact, that if you are a white-collar crook, be it with a corporation like Purdue Pharma or a huge financial services institution like HSBC (an international banking corporation with its headquarters in London,) you can get away with serious crime and not pay a dime. 

I mention HSBC specifically, because there is clear evidence that they engaged in massive money laundering, both for foreign states such as Iran and Sudan, as well as good old fashion laundering of drug money for the drug cartels. For proof, as well as a link to the 288 page staff report, see “Too Big to Jail: Internal Treasury Documents Reveal Why Justice Department Did Not Prosecute HSBC.  

There is no doubt that Attorney General Eric Holder intervened in the proposed Indictment of HSBC over these very issues. Result? No indictment. And this was not a one-off, by the way. In her confirmation hearings, our current Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, suggested that there was not enough evidence to prosecute HSBC, even though she oversaw the case and was aware of the staff recommendations. 

The Takeaway--Something is clearly wrong with our system of justice. And you and I are clearly paying for it in more ways than one. If the feds would start doing their job for a change, by prosecuting huge crooked drug companies and financial services institutions, then maybe the word would trickle down. I don’t know how direct a correlation there is, but it seems to me that vigorous prosecution of so-called “white-collar” crime would mean less profit for the corporate crooks and less crime for you and me in Los Angeles. 

Hey, one can hope.


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays