Opioid expert: ‘I don’t really see’ the Trump administration doing a lot to help.

Adriana Belmonte
Yahoo Finance, July 18, 2019, 7:27am PDT

The opioid crisis is drawing attention from all sides. Fed Chair Jerome Powell even mentioned it during recent testimony to the House Financial Services Committee, speaking to how it’s affected labor force participation.

Legislation to provide funding for drug abuse treatments has received bipartisan support, and the White House has taken its own course of action.

But is the Trump administration doing enough? Dr. Paul Christo, a Maryland-based pain management and opioid expert, isn’t so sure.

“I don’t think they are,” Christo said on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade. “I think there is a lot of talk but I haven’t seen a lot of action yet. The epidemic is huge.”

He added: “Now in 2018, we may see fewer opioid-related deaths, and I hope we do, but I don’t really see them doing a lot in terms of policy changes. And what we’ve also seen is really a shift from prescription opioid overdoses to heroin and then now to a lot of overdoses related to illicit fentanyl use. I think we need more policy to address that aspect.”

White House efforts

President Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Kellyanne Conway, and others attend a briefing on efforts to combat the opioid crisis on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in Washington. (Photo: AP Photo/Alex Brandon)More

In October 2018, President Trump signed the Substance-Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act, meant to target overprescription and opioid trafficking.

The White House’s official website also has an entire section dedicated to the administration’s effort to curb opioid addiction, which states that $6 billion in funding was secured to help this effort.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is now trying to get generic treatments for opioid overdoses, such as Narcan, to the market in a quicker manner, which Christo sees as a positive.

“The opioid epidemic is huge,” he reiterated, noting the increase in opioid-related deaths from 2016 to 2017. “And I would say right now the main response to that is Narcan. Narcan can save lives. So, I think the availability of Narcan to a greater extent is key.”

But is it up to the FDA to find generic treatments for the life-saving treatments, or should the responsibility lie elsewhere?

“I think the responsibility is shared,” Christo said. “This problem started in the 1990s and at that time, there was a liberalization of the use of opioids on the part of health care practitioners, on the part of physicians. And even the government at that time was very interested in combating the problem that we have of chronic pain.”

Opioid overdose deaths have increased every year since 1999. Photo: CDC Wonder)
Opioid overdose deaths have increased every year since 1999. Photo: CDC Wonder)

The blame is ‘broad’

Politicians have been more candid about the topic. During the Democratic presidential debates, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) didn’t hold back his feelings about the role pharmaceutical companies play in opioid addiction.

“They should absolutely be held criminally liable, because they are liable and responsible,” he said. “It is time that we have a national urgency to deal with this problem and make the solutions that are working to actually be the law of our land and make the pharmaceutical companies that are responsible help to pay for that.”

Christo, however, doesn’t hold them entirely responsible.

“Some of the pharmaceutical companies at that time I think did aggressively market opioids,” he said. “So they do share the blame, but I think it’s broad — not just pharmaceutical companies, I think it’s many of us.

“Remember, we have 100 million Americans suffering from chronic pain in this country. It’s a major epidemic in and of itself.”

Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.

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