Biden to nominate first physician as US drug czar

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President Joe Biden will nominate Rahul Gupta, MD, former West Virginia public health commissioner, as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a White House official confirmed to The Hill July 13. 

Dr. Gupta, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first physician to serve as the country's drug czar. The office is responsible for reducing substance abuse by coordinating the national drug policy, The Hill reported.

"President Biden's nomination of Dr. Rahul Gupta to be the first physician ever to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is another historic step in the administration’s efforts to turn the tide of our nation's addiction and overdose epidemic," a White House spokesperson told The Hill. "Dr. Gupta brings firsthand experience as a medical doctor and public health official using evidence-based strategies to address the overdose epidemic in West Virginia. We hope he will be confirmed by the Senate soon."

Dr. Gupta has been a primary care physician for 25 years. He served as West Virginia's public health commissioner from 2015 to 2018, where he led the state's opioid crisis response efforts, The Hill reported. He is currently chief medical and health officer and senior vice president of March of Dimes

Dr. Gupta was chosen by President Biden last November to lead the White House drug office's transition team. He has faced some criticism for allegedly not doing enough to prevent the closure of a needle exchange program in Charleston, W.Va., in 2018 during an HIV outbreak, Politico reported. 

It could be months before he is confirmed to the White House position,  currently held by Regina LaBelle, program director of the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at the O'Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law, The Hill reported. 

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