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    The Trump Administration Gets Tough on Opioids

    Trump and Gottlieb are both taking steps to end the opioid epidemic. But is it enough?

    Scott Gottlieb, MD, President Trump's nominee for FDA Commissioner, said the FDA is “complicit, even if unwittingly” in helping fuel the opioid crisis, during Senate nomination hearings this week.

    Officials “didn't fully recognize the scope of the emerging problem” several years ago and needed a new strategy to combat the issues involved, Gottlieb said, according to The Washington Post.

    Gottlieb also said that the U.S. opioid crisis is a “public health emergency on the order of Ebola and Zika” and requires dramatic action by FDA and other agencies.

    Gottlieb’s views are in line with President Trump’s strong words on the opioid crisis during his campaign. In addition, Trump recently created the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, an effort that some say does not go far enough.

    Related article: How You Can Help Prevent Opioid Abuse

    “I made a promise to the American people to take action to keep drugs from pouring into our country and to help those who have been so badly affected by them,” the president said in a statement.

    Critics say that the Commission will not curb prescription painkiller abuse or deaths from opioid overdoses, and that Trump’s budget cuts to health and other agencies could hurt the fight against opioids and other drugs. They also worry that Republican Congressional efforts to criminalize opioid abuse, along with the Republicans’ failed attempt to revise the Affordable Care Act, may harm the progress made in the opioid crisis.

    "This new shift will certainly make the situation much worse," Leo Beletsky, a law professor at Northeastern University who specializes in health and drug policy, told Politico.com. 

    President Trump’s proposed 2017 budget would cut $100 million from mental health block grants at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHS), while his proposed 2018 budget would cut 16.2% of funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, which funds SAMHS and similar programs.

    Related article: The Top Six Ways Trump’s Policies Will Impact Pharmacies

    "There is a massive gulf between President Trump's promises to tackle this crisis and the policies this administration has proposed during his first two months in office," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in a response to Trump's roundtable meeting announcing the opioid commission on March 28, Mother Jones reported.

    The goals of the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which will be led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R), include:

    • Assess the availability and accessibility of drug addiction treatment services and overdose reversal throughout the country and identify areas that are underserved.
    • Identify and report on best practices for addiction prevention, including health-care provider education and evaluation of prescription practices, as well as the use and effectiveness of state prescription drug monitoring programs.
    • Review the literature evaluating the effectiveness of educational messages for youth and adults with respect to prescription and illicit opioids.
    • Identify and evaluate existing federal programs to prevent and treat drug addiction for their scope and effectiveness, and make recommendations for improving these programs.

    The Commission will cease to exist after it reports to President Trump in October. 

    Christine Blank
    Contributing Editor Christine Blank is a freelance writer based in Florida.

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