Thursday, April 06, 2017

FDA nominee compares opioid epidemic to Ebola, Zika viruses; calls crisis 'most immediate priority'

FDA nominee Scott Gottlieb (Reuters photo)
The nation's opioid epidemic, which is especially problematic in Appalachia and other rural areas, is a “public-health emergency on the order of Ebola and Zika," President Trump's nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration said at his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday. Scott Gottlieb, a physician and entrepreneur, said the crisis "requires dramatic action by the agency and the rest of government."

"Gottlieb described the FDA as 'complicit, even if unwittingly,' in helping to fuel the opioid epidemic, Laurie McGinley reports for The Washington Post. "Officials, he said, 'didn't fully recognize the scope of the emerging problem' several years ago and needed a new strategy to combat the issues involved. Developing that strategy, he added, would be his 'highest and most immediate priority' and would involve taking a hard look at the FDA's framework for approving painkillers and pressing for greater availability of nonaddictive painkillers."

"Gottlieb said he would take an 'all-of-the-above approach' in trying to find solutions to the opioid problem but also added that the issue has become too big for the FDA to solve on its own," McGinley writes. He said, “This is a staggering human tragedy that is going to require dramatic action on the part of the agency." Gottlieb, a high-ranking FDA official during the George W. Bush administration, is popular with Republicans and "his confirmation seems all but assured," McGinley reports.

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