Trump drug czar nominee accused of hindering opioid crackdown
US President Donald Trump’s nominee for drug czar is accused of helping relax enforcement on pharmaceutical firms blamed for fuelling the opioid crisis.
Pennsylvania congressman Tom Marino pushed a bill that reportedly stripped a government agency of the ability to freeze suspicious painkiller shipments.
His co-sponsor on the act was Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. Both their states have been ravaged by opioids.
Experts estimate the drugs could kill 500,000 Americans in the next decade.
Deadly addiction to opioids – a class of drug covering everything from legal painkillers to heroin – has been described as America’s biggest public health crisis since the spread of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s.
President Trump was pressed on Monday about the allegations surrounding his drug czar nominee that were detailed in an expose by the Washington Post and CBS News’ 60 Minutes programme.
During a press conference at the White House, Mr Trump told reporters he took the journalistic investigation “very seriously”.
“We’re gonna be looking into Tom [Marino],” he told reporters from the Rose Garden.
“He’s a great guy. I did see the report. We’re gonna look into the report.”
Mr Trump also said he would formally declare a national opioid emergency next week, as he pledged to do more than two months ago.
Mr Marino and Ms Blackburn, both Republicans, helped force out an official at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who was taking on the drug firms, report the Post and 60 Minutes.
According to the investigation, they also introduced and lobbied for an “industry-friendly” bill called the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act.
A DEA whistleblower said the legislation made it harder for the agency to prevent distributors from shipping pills to rogue pharmacies and corrupt doctors around the US.
The so-called suspension orders – which the DEA slaps on suspicious shipments – have not been issued for at least two years, according to the report.