President Donald Trump said he’s ready to declare opioid addiction a national emergency, which could clear the way for extra funding and government authority to address a wave of overdose deaths.
Shortly after addressing the crisis in remarks to the media at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, the president released a statement ordering his administration to "use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the statement was the first step toward the official declaration of a national emergency. The administration has given no timetable for when the declaration would be drawn up and signed.
The statement from Trump, who made the issue a key talking point during his campaign, cited recommendations in an interim report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The declaration of a national emergency would give the administration additional tools, such as allowing the government to negotiate lower prices for overdose-reversal drugs, according to the draft.
“We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” Trump told the media earlier. “This is a national emergency, and we are drawing documents now to so attest.”
Two drugmakers — Mylan NV and Mallinckrodt Plc — said this week they were subpoenaed last month by the Justice Department over the sale, marketing and manufacture of pain drugs. A Mylan spokeswoman declined to comment, and Mallinckrodt didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
More than 33,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA. Most opioid-overdose deaths are linked to prescription pain pills, though the use of heroin is growing rapidly, accounting for almost 13,000 deaths in 2015, according to NIDA.
In June, Arizona became the sixth state to declare a statewide emergency in response to the opioid epidemic, according to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Arizona joined Alaska, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia. The orders vary but widely expand access to the overdose antidote naloxone and give states the ability make rules about opioid prescribing.
Several states also have sued drugmakers that manufacture opioids, blaming them for the rise in addiction and seeking to recover damages.
Trump also has called for tougher law enforcement, including locking up more drug dealers after what he said was a decline in drug-related prosecutions since 2011, and more aggressive policing at U.S. borders to stop the import of heroin and synthetic opioids. The Food and Drug Administration has announced steps to limit misuse of prescription opioids.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Tuesday the administration was coming up with a comprehensive strategy on opioids that would be presented to Trump in the future but added that the crisis could be handled “without the declaration of a national emergency.”