Oct. 26, 2017

Trump Declares Opioid Public Health Emergency, But It Will Take More Than Tweets and Big Pharma Nominations to Save Lives

Statement of Peter Maybarduk, Director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program

Note: News reports say President Donald Trump plans today to direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare America’s opioid epidemic a public health emergency.

A national strategy on opioids must include a plan to rein in the corrupt abuses of the pharmaceutical industry, or it likely will fail. What’s important for Americans is not declaring an emergency, but acting on the emergency. Declarations and tweets will do little to curb the deadly opioid push into our communities spurred by Big Pharma.

Big Pharma hooked millions of Americans on opioids through illegal marketing, greed and undermining safety standards. Now these corporations profiteer on our efforts to end the epidemic, too, by spiking the prices of overdose treatments and manipulating safety standards to block addiction therapy competitors. Local health budgets and services are straining to keep up, in some cases rationing antidotes as a result.

Big Pharma created this epidemic. Ending Big Pharma’s corruption is a necessary part of the solution.

President Trump has the power to ramp up enforcement and penalties against the illegal marketing of opioids and toughen U.S. Food and Drug Administration safety standards. He also has the power to stop profiteering and prevent treatment rationing by authorizing competition with patented products like naloxone that deliver rescue therapies. He also can negotiate lower prices for naloxone products, as recommended by the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and a group of U.S. senators led by Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

Or he could irrationally continue to appoint Big Pharma’s corporate leaders to run the U.S. government’s health and enforcement agencies, and mire us ever deeper in a swamp of corruption and addiction.

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