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Oct 18 2017

The War On Opioids

In the wake of a Washington Post expose on how the pharmaceutical industry had lobbied congress to weaken the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to fight the opioid epidemic, Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) has withdrawn his name to be Donald Trump’s drug czar. Marino was the principal sponsor of the bill written by an industry lawyer that made it harder for DEA to regulate the distribution of highly addictive opioids by Big Pharma.

But as Steve Benen at Maddow Blog notes this is not the end of the story

First, some state officials are already using the latest reporting to go after drug companies, blaming them for allegedly having a role in making the opioid epidemic worse.

And second, the problematic law Tom Marino helped pass is still on the books. Sen. Joe Machin (D), whose home state of West Virginia has been hit especially hard by the opiod crisis, announced plans yesterday to undo what Marino has done. From the senator’s press statement:

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today introduced legislation repealing the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 after the Washington Post report indicated that the legislation has dramatically restricted the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to crack down on opioid distributors and manufacturers suspected of wrongdoing.

“I am horrified by how harmful this bill has been for our efforts to effectively fight the opioid epidemic and now it’s time to make it right,” Senator Manchin. “I introduced legislation to repeal this horrible bill and reinstate the DEA’s ability to stop opioid distributors and manufacturers who are endangering the American people. The DEA is one of our first lines of defense against this all-consuming disease. West Virginia’s families and communities deserve a DEA that will protect them, not pharmaceutical companies.”

We don’t yet know whether Congress’ Republican majority will take up Manchin’s proposal.

Over two months ago, Donald Trump said that the opioid crisis was a national emergency. In his report to Trump on the crisis, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) described the death toll as “September 11th every three weeks.” The governor urged Trump to declare it a national emergency. Trump has yet to sign a formal declaration