Trump Ditches His Opioid-Protecting Drug Czar Nominee

It’s wild to think that the U.S. government’s next drug czar could have been the very politician who introduced legislation allowing major drug companies to get tons of opioids onto the streets without consequence.

President Donald Trump almost did precisely that when he nominated U.S. Representative Tom Marino to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. If confirmed, Marino would have served as the nation’s “drug czar” and dictated U.S. drug procedure. Fortunately, a bombshell report and public outcry prompted Marino to withdraw his nomination.

The 60 Minutes/Washington Post investigation that put the wheels in motion highlighted D.C.’s complicity in the opioid crisis. Whistleblowers who worked at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) explained how their bosses killed investigations into big corporations allowing their painkillers to be sold illegally.

In the past, it was illegal for drug companies to fulfill suspicious-seeming opioid orders. If, say, a rural doctor was requesting 50 times the amount of drugs that hospitals with a lot more patients were, the company had the obligation to say no. However, drug companies wanted to send the pills to doctors who’d distribute them to probable addicts anyway, since there’s a lot of profit in doing so.

A couple big corporations that didn’t follow the line were fined millions for these infractions. That was probably not much of a discouragement since they were making billions in the process, but they complained anyway about the hassle of it all, which was enough to get the political fat cats who normally cow to corporate pressure to take the heat of the companies.

Still, these companies preferred to get away with turning a blind eye to opioid sales that would surely be abused even more easily. That’s where Rep. Marino came in. In 2014, he introduced legislation, conveniently written on his behalf by big pharma, that effectively prevented the DEA from cracking down on illegal sales. As a result, the burden of proof necessary to stop opioid sales was nearly impossible.

The law was written under the guise of ensuring that people who need painkillers could access them without interference. That may sound good on the surface, but it ignores that the DEA wasn’t trying to stop doctors from making reasonable, legal prescriptions, but from fraudulently distributing these drugs to dealers and addicts.

For their efforts, the legislators who cosponsored the bill received over $1 million in campaign donations from big pharma, with Marino getting $100,000. He played a major role in enabling an American health crisis, and after selling out to drug companies, the White House wants to put him in charge of drug policy.

After the report went public, politicians like Senators Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer publicly called on the president to rescind his nomination. Manchin, who represents West Virginia where the opioid epidemic is especially deadly, said, “Congressman Marino no longer has my trust or that of the public that he will aggressively pursue the fight against opioid abuse.”

As the criticism emerged, Trump initially defended Marino, calling him a “great guy” and “a very early supporter of mine.” Ultimately, however, that loyalty wasn’t enough to save Marino, since it’s terrible optics to appoint someone in the pockets of opioid makers during a highly publicized drug epidemic.

Speaking of the epidemic, the country is still waiting for Trump to take action. Two months ago, Trump pledged to declare opioid abuse a “national emergency,” then went silent on the subject. When a reporter brought the issue back up on Monday, he again promised to give it official designation (which would better allow federal funds to get put toward fighting opioid addiction) next week.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

37 comments

Richard A
Richard A2 months ago

Rep. Tom Marino, because of his actions championing the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, should be held at least partially responsible for the so-called opioid crisis that we as a country are facing.

Hopefully, some day the pretender-in-chief will be held responsible for his lies and the damage that he and his regime are inflicting on our country and the world .

SEND
Winn A
Winn A3 months ago

tRUMP is without intelligence and compassion and intellect.

SEND
Winn A
Winn A3 months ago

tRUMP is a cancer on America.

SEND
Ciaron Drain
Ciaron Drain3 months ago

If anything there is not really going to be a glimmer of a social conscious from Trump in the foreseeable future as he is still going to appoint the very worst people for roles: this is just another example. Still, I suspect there will be dead bodies popping up in Washington soon : there is only so many times he can use the autoerotic asphysixation excuse these days.

SEND
Janet B
Janet B3 months ago

Thanks

SEND
Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago

So true Cruel J.

SEND
Cruel Justice
Cruel J3 months ago

If marijuana were legal everywhere, the opiod crisis wouldn't be a crisis anymore.

SEND
Anne M
Anne Moran3 months ago

chump thinks everybody is a 'great guy', as long as they serve him purpose...

SEND
Ian Crory
Ian Crory3 months ago

:0)

SEND
john c
john casablanca3 months ago

Too bad the present day REPUBLICAN PARTY isn't INTELLIGENT ENOUGH TO DUMP TRUMPF !!! He will dump them.
John C./Houston, Tx.

SEND