Feb 26, 2018

Washington buckles down on opioids

Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Both the executive branch and Congress plan to take a fresh look over the next month at the still-out-of-control opioid crisis.

What to watch: Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar told the National Governors Association on Saturday that HHS will embrace medication-assisted therapy (MAT) — transitioning people addicted to opioids to drugs that treat withdrawal symptoms and ease them back into the routines of daily life.

The details: Azar, echoing previous comments by Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, said HHS would be “willing to work to overcome any stigma associated with addiction and addiction treatment, and to treat the opioid epidemic not as a moral failing, but as a moral challenge.”

  • The FDA will soon be releasing two MAT-related guidance documents, Azar said, aimed at improving clinical studies of MAT and developing more effective treatments.

Congress is getting involved, too. The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate HELP Committee are both holding opioid hearings this week, and the House is hoping to put a bill on the floor before Memorial Day — though lawmakers aren’t sure what, exactly, it will do.

Governors lead the way: Azar’s address to the NGA this weekend preceded a panel discussion about best practices to deal with the epidemic.

  • Suggestions ranged from the big and expensive (more treatment beds) to the almost absurdly easy (put Tylenol higher than opioids on the drop-down menu where paramedics choose a drug to administer to pain patients).
  • A group of governors will also be meeting today with HELP chairman Lamar Alexander, the NGA said, and will be testifying before the committee, too.

Why it matters: If your heart hasn’t been sufficiently broken yet by these kinds of features, Time magazine is out with a photo essay called "The Opioid Diaries.”

Go deeper

Police officer in George Floyd killing arrested

A protester with a sign with George Floyd's last words. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer involved in the killing of George Floyd, was taken into custody Friday by Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, according to the Star Tribune's Briana Bierschbach.

The state of play: Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said that there was no additional charging information yet, as that decision is in the jurisdiction of the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

Trump forces fateful choices on Twitter and Facebook

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's war with Twitter is confronting social media platforms with a hard dilemma: whether to take fuller responsibility for what people say on their services, or to step back and assume a more quasi-governmental role.

The big picture: Facebook is trying to be more like a government committing to impartiality and protecting free speech and building mechanisms for arbitration. Twitter, pushed by Trump's inflammatory messages, is opting to more aggressively enforce conduct rules on its private property, like a mall owner enforcing rules inside the gates.

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