America's opioid epidemic, especially damaging in rural areas where
Trump is popular, has been a focus for the Republican president.
On Tuesday, the government charged drug distributor Rochester Drug
Co-operative Inc and company executives for their role in fueling
the epidemic. The company agreed to pay $20 million and enter a
deferred prosecution agreement to resolve charges it turned a blind
eye to thousands of suspicious orders for opioid pain killers.
"We are holding big Pharma accountable," Trump said at the Rx Drug
Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.
Deaths from opioid overdose in the United States jumped 17 percent
in 2017 from a year earlier to more than 49,000 according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Deaths from potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl surged 45 percent
in that time, according to the CDC.
Hundreds of lawsuits by state and local governments accuse
drugmakers such as Purdue Pharma of deceptively marketing opioids,
and distributors such as AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health Inc
and McKesson Corp of ignoring that they were being diverted for
Trump said he convinced Chinese President Xi Jinping in a December
meeting in Argentina to designate fentanyl as a controlled
China last month listed all fentanyl-related substances as
controlled narcotics after criticism from Trump, though its
government blamed U.S. culture for abuse of the drug and said the
amount of fentanyl going from China into the United States was
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"Almost all fentanyl comes from China," Trump said on Wednesday.
"They are going to make it a major crime."
Little has come of Trump's earlier calls for executing drug dealers.
But the administration has taken some action to address the crisis
on other fronts.
Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in
October 2017. Last week, U.S. health officials said they will spend
$350 million in four states to study ways to best deal with the
opioid crisis on the local level, with a goal of reducing opioid-related
overdose deaths by 40 percent over three years in selected
communities in those states.
The Democratic National Committee said in a statement before Trump's
remarks that his proposed Medicaid cuts and efforts to overturn the
Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, could make the
opioid problem worse.
Trump has used the crisis to support his call for building a wall on
the border with Mexico, saying it would help keep out heroin and
other illegal drugs and curb the crisis.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing
by Kevin Drawbaugh, David Gregorio and Bill Berkrot)
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