Trump's rumored pick for drug czar panned by addiction experts
President Donald Trump is expected to nominate U.S. Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania to lead the nation's efforts to curb drug addiction, according to news reports.
Addiction experts immediately panned the pick, saying Marino's legislative history shows preference for drugmakers.
"I really hope this is just a name being thrown in the mix, and this isn't real," said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University, adding that Trump's picks have been "the opposite of cleaning up the swamp."
CBS News on Tuesday reported that Marino will head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which coordinates policies for all federal agencies involved in drug regulation, including the Food and Drug Administration, HHS and the Drug Enforcement Administration. A White House spokesman refused to confirm the reports.
Kolodny said Marino and Dr. Scott Gottlieb—who is the nominee to lead the FDA and has also been criticized for being an industry insider—contradict the administration's rhetoric on combatting the opioid epidemic.
"Between Gottlieb and Marino, Trump is turning the opioid crisis over to the opioid lobby," he said. "The people that Trump is selecting are exactly the people who the opioid lobby would want in charge."
Marino was elected to the House in 2010. He represents a mostly rural district in central and northeastern Pennsylvania.
A former U.S. attorney, Marino introduced the bipartisan Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama in 2016.
The law is supposed to foster greater collaboration between law enforcement and drug companies, pharmacies and distributors in an effort to allow offenders to correct their situation before their rights to distribute opioids are suspended or revoked.
The DEA once had the sole authority to determine what people or companies were an "imminent danger to the public health or safety." The law requires the decision to now include the U.S. attorney general.
Critics felt it left violators off the hook for violations already committed and benefited big business.
"It's a bill that strips the DEA of its authority to crack down on major wholesalers and distributors," Kolodny said.
Marino will likely face the same scrutiny during his congressional hearings that the FDA nominee endured. Gottlieb serves on the boards of three drug companies and his venture capital firm funds 150 others. He tried to address concerns about conflicts of interest by offering to recuse himself from any decisions related to his business dealings.
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