Trump on opioid crisis: 'We are holding Big Pharma accountable'

Trump pointed to drug-trafficking charges that federal prosecutors in New York filed against one of the largest drug distribution companies in the U.S.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during the "Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit," in Atlanta on April 24, 2019.Evan Vucci / AP

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By Dartunorro Clark

President Donald Trump on Wednesday vowed to take on pharmaceutical companies in his administration's pursuit to end the opioid epidemic in America.

"We are holding Big Pharma accountable," Trump said at the 2019 Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta. "I couldn't care less, they have to do what's right."

Trump pointed to the drug-trafficking charges that federal prosecutors in New York filed Tuesday against Rochester Drug Co-Operative, one of the largest distribution companies in the United States, and two of its former chief executives for their sale of prescription opioids — the first major distribution company hit with such charges.

"My administration is also taking aggressive action to reduce oversupply of highly addictive prescription drugs," Trump said. "The Department of Justice has prosecuted more than 3,000 defendants in cases involving opioids."

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Trump has made the opioid epidemic a top policy priority. In 2017, he declared the epidemic a national emergency and in October signed into law a legislative package that lawmakers and public health experts believe will help curb crisis in the country.

On Wednesday, Trump checked off what he said were his administration's accomplishments in fighting the opioid epidemic, including stopping drugs at the southern border and expanding access to an overdose-reversing drug called Naloxone.

"We have secured a record $6 billion in new funding to combat the opioid crisis ... [and] last year we provided $90 million to prevent youth substance abuse," Trump said. "Following the recommendation of my surgeon general and many others last year, the distribution of the overdose-reducing drug, Naloxone, increased by over 1 million units. Pretty amazing stuff."

Trump also touted aggressive efforts at the U.S.-Mexico border to stop the flow of drugs into the country, including his long-promised border wall, which he claimed is under construction. The United States is replacing old fencing at the border, with plans to build some new sections.

"We are stopping the drug flow," Trump said. "Some want to do the right thing, you might be surprised. You can see what’s going on the border, they’re seeing the drugs and human trafficking.”

A 2015 report by the Drug Enforcement Administration noted, however, that a wall would stop illegal drugs from coming into the country since the bulk of drugs crossing the southwest border come through legal ports of entry.

Trump also said Wednesday that he would stop foreign drug companies from "rigging" the system against Americans.

“At long last, we’re stopping the drug companies in foreign countries from rigging the system,” Trump said. “I know all about rigging the system because I had the system rigged on me.”

“I think you know what I’m talking about,” he added, an apparent reference to his repeated criticism of the Russia investigation.