Viewpoint: The one step Trump should take to ease the opioid epidemic

Although President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in October, his administration has yet to take necessary steps to help those fighting addiction — including one critical, cost-free step, two experts argue in a jointly written op-ed in The Washington Post.

Here are four takeaways from the op-ed, written by Robert Weissman, president of nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, and Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen, MD:

1. Dr. Wen and Mr. Weissman both say the one thing the Trump administration can do to ease the opioid crisis is to use existing legal authority to cut prices for the opioid overdose antidote naloxone.

2. This would mean the government would authorize and purchase generic versions of Narcan (naloxone with a nasal spray) and/or Evzio, which delivers naloxone through a device that helps the injection process. The government would then distribute the products via local governments, nonprofit providers and others.

"Alternatively, the government could authorize recipients of federal funding to procure the naloxone treatments from generic providers," the authors write.

3. This approach would significantly cut the lifesaving drug's prices and make naloxone with easy-to-use devices more available. Certain brands of naloxone are listed for more than $2,000 a dose, but generic naloxone is available from Indian suppliers for 15 cents a dose, the authors say. "Easy-to-use naloxone makes a life-and-death difference."

4. "The choice before…the Trump administration is simple: They can choose to lower prices and save lives. Or they can choose to perpetuate the rationing of lifesaving treatments and avoid offending Big Pharma at the cost of letting people across the country die for lack of access to affordable, easy-to-use naloxone delivery devices," the authors conclude. "We should not be priced out of the ability to save lives."

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