President Donald Trump is still promising to mount a national effort on the opioid crisis, which spread and worsened during President Barack Obama’s administration.
So far, Trump indicated his administration will act. He has broadly endorsed the findings of a special commission on the topic. And he has taken an adversarial posture against pharmaceutical companies on other issues.
But the White House seems to face hurdles on the path to solutions.
Over the weekend, “60 Minutes” broadcast a story describing how a change in federal law last year curbed the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from those companies.
Joe Rannazzisi, former head of the Office of Diversion Control for the DEA, was interviewed. He said members of Congress and the drug industry ultimately overcame earlier objections from law enforcement and won the day.
And it turned out that Trump’s nominee to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy championed the industry-friendly legislation that vexed lawman Rannazzisi. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), the nominee, helped steer the drive to go easier on the drug companies.
On Tuesday, Marino withdrew his name. A replacement candidate will have to be picked.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was among those calling for the withdrawal on Monday.
“There’s no way that in having the title of the drug czar that you’ll be taken seriously or effectively by anyone in West Virginia and the communities that have been affected by this knowing that you were involved in something that had this type of effect,” Manchin said.
Back in July, the White House first appeared poised to act on the fatal overdose trend.
Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued a report stating that its “first and most urgent recommendation” is for the president to “declare a national emergency.”
“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day,” the report said, “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”
Since then, however, the Trump administration has stalled on carrying out that recommendation. When queried by reporters Monday, he said “We are going to be doing that next week.
“To get to that step, a lot of work has to be done, and it’s time-consuming work.” Given the stated urgency, much time has already been consumed.