Trump pledges action after ’60 minutes’ report on DEA losing authority to combat opioid crisis

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo, shows a portion of the label for OxyContin pills in Montpelier, Vt. On Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, safety advocates and state health officials filed a petition calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban high-dose opioid painkillers to prevent accidental overdose deaths among patients and people who abuse drugs. The petition singles out the OxyContin 80 milligram tablet, which is taken twice daily, adding up to 240 morphine-equivalent milligrams. It seeks a ban on other high-dose opioid tablets and under-the-tongue films. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — President Donald Trump said he saw a “60 Minutes” report about a law limiting the Drug Enforcement Administration and will look into whether his nominee for the country’s drug czar did anything wrong.

That nominee, Congressman Tom Marino, pushed for the 2016 bill, which became law. A DEA agent turned whistle blower said it stripped the agency of its ability to freeze suspicious shipments of prescription narcotics.

President Trump said if Marino’s actions were negative, he will make a change.

Republican representative Mark Walker of Greensboro met with North Carolina health leaders Monday at the Department of Health and Human Services and told CBS North Carolina he supports looking into Marino and the law in the wake of the joint report from “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post.

“I would concur with President Trump that to look into the situation if there has been some kind of influence from an outside, let’s just say a pharmaceutical company or any other lobbyist, that would have prevented any kind of particular wrongdoing or even kind of ethical wrongdoing, we want to make sure that that’s being looked at,” Walker said.

Walker said Congress will make sure nothing blocks the DEA from doing its job. That means he might support a proposed repeal of the law passed last year.

“I want to go back and look. I haven’t read it for text, but just off the cuff, I haven’t seen anything specifically that I have would have a problem with, but before I give a hard ‘yes’ I’d want to back and read through the text.”

State health leaders briefed Walker on the opioid issue. State numbers show opioids have killed more than 12,000 people since 1999.

Statewide, the numbers increased 73 percent in a decade – from 642 in 2005 to more than 1,100 in 2015.
The numbers jumped 20 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the state.

The statistics predict the loss of an additional 1,500 lives a year by 2021.

In Central North Carolina, the number of opioid-related deaths between 2005 and 2015 jumped from 14 to 41 in Cumberland County; 6 to 17 in Durham; 7 to 10 in Harnett County; 8 to 23 in Johnston County; and 35 to 62 in Wake County, which has the highest number of deaths in the state. The numbers dropped by one death during that time frame in Orange County – 7 to 6.

“One of the things we talked about today that coincides with that report, is more education, not only in the pharmaceutical areas, but also to our physicians, to make sure that there’s not over-prescribing going on,” Walker said.

Trump said Monday an announcement about the drug crisis is expected next week.

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