Feb 28, 2018

Washington’s opioid response accelerates

Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The federal response to the opioid epidemic is entering a new phase of intensity. Both the Trump administration and members of Congress announced new steps yesterday that could make a real difference in both law enforcement and public health.

The Justice Department announced that it will try to join a lawsuit, led by several state and local governments, against drugmakers and distributors that sell or sold prescription opioids.

  • This is a big deal. This lawsuit is modeled after the tobacco litigation of the '90s, accusing drugmakers of pushing painkillers too aggressively and failing to take action when they proved dangerously addictive.
  • By joining the litigation, DOJ could up the total award, if the governments win their case. “We will seek to hold accountable those whose illegality has cost us billions of taxpayer dollars,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said yesterday.
  • The White House is also planning to roll out more policy proposals on Thursday.

On Capitol Hill, Sens. Rob Portman and Sheldon Whitehouse introduced the sequel to the opioids bill they helped pass in 2016. It would provide $1 billion per year in federal funding and include new policy limits such as a three-day maximum on new opioid prescriptions.

  • Three days matches the most restrictive limit pursued in the states. Kentucky adopted a three-day cap last year, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants one, too.

Notable: It’ll likely take more than $1 billion, but Portman and Whitehouse also say they want to enhance the government’s focus on recovery. So far, public resources have mostly been focused on immediate treatment as the death toll from overdoses continues to rise.

  • "We know the recovery programs are essential to winning this battle. That if you just have short-term treatment — detox, short-term treatment — that the success rate is very low. If you have longer-term recovery, the success rate is higher," Portman tells my colleague Caitlin Owens.

Go deeper

Protests for George Floyd continue for 10th day

Thousands of protesters march over the Brooklyn Bridge on June 4 in New York City. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

All four former Minneapolis police officers have been charged for George Floyd’s death and are in custody, including Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, who were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

The latest: Crowds gathered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Thursday evening and in Atlanta, Georgia, despite the rain. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined demonstrators on Thursday. Demonstrators in Washington, D.C. dispersed following a thunderstorm and rain warning for the region.

Trump says he will campaign against Lisa Murkowski after her support for Mattis

Trump with Barr and Meadows outside St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. on June 1. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that he would endorse "any candidate" with a pulse who runs against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Driving the news: Murkowski said on Thursday that she supported former defense secretary James Mattis' condemnation of Trump over his response to protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing. She described Mattis' statement as "true, honest, necessary and overdue," Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.

3 hours ago - World

The president vs. the Pentagon

Trump visits Mattis and the Pentagon in 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

Over the course of just a few hours, President Trump was rebuffed by the Secretary of Defense over his call for troops in the streets and accused by James Mattis, his former Pentagon chief, of trampling the Constitution for political gain.

Why it matters: Current and former leaders of the U.S. military are drawing a line over Trump's demand for a militarized response to the protests and unrest that have swept the country over the killing of George Floyd by police.