Dogged by suspicions about the consulting work he did for pharmaceutical companies that fueled the nation's painkiller crisis, the Drug Enforcement Administration's second-in-command has stepped down, the Associated Press reports. Louis Milione’s four years of consulting for Big Pharma preceded his 2021 return to the DEA to serve as Administrator Anne Milgram’s top deputy, renewing concerns in the agency and beyond about the revolving door between government and industry and its potential impact on the DEA’s mission to police drug companies blamed for tens of thousands of American overdose deaths.
Milione initially left the DEA in 2017 after a 21-year career that included a two-year stint leading the division that controls the sale of highly addictive narcotics. Like dozens of colleagues in the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, he went to work as a consultant for some of the same companies he had been tasked with regulating. Milione consulted for Morris & Dickson, a Louisiana-based pharmaceutical distributor sanctioned for a deluge of suspicious painkiller shipments. He did similar work for the drugmaker that became the face of the opioid epidemic: Purdue Pharma. Milione said in a statement this week that he stepped down for personal reasons unrelated to AP’s reporting on his industry ties. Both he and the Justice Department said he recused himself at the DEA from all matters involving his private-sector work where there was even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Milione added that his consulting stint helped drug companies comply with DEA rules, just as his return to government gave the DEA insight into how business decisions are made in the real world.