Health Care

Brown Vows to Lead Opposition to Drug Czar

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said Monday he would lead the charge against President Donald Trump’s nominee for drug czar.

Stories as part of a joint investigation by “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post accuse the nominee, U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-10, Pa., of introducing legislation that waters down the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s powers.

Brown, D-Ohio, referred to the reporting during a visit Monday to the Austintown Township Police Department to discuss the upcoming National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. He said he would lead the opposition to Marino, whom he called “absolutely disqualified [sic] to hold that position.”

The Senate must confirm Marino’s nomination.

“He’s too close to the drug companies. He’s too close to these companies that have inflicted this terrible pain on hundreds of thousands of American families,” Brown continued. “You need to drain the swamp, not put another alligator in the DEA swamp.”

The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, introduced in 2014 and that former President Obama signed into law last year, requires the DEA to establish “a significant and present risk of death or serious bodily harm that is more likely than not to occur” before directing the suspension of drug shipments, a higher standard than before, the Washington Post reported.

The Post story also reports that political action committees that represent the pharmaceutical industry contributed nearly $100,000 to Marino, out of at least $1.5 million contributed to the 23 lawmakers who sponsored or co-sponsored versions of the bill.

Yesterday afternoon, Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., called on Trump to withdraw the nomination in the wake of the Post/CBS reportage.

Brown, joined by Jeffrey Toth, a detective sergeant with the Austintown department, was here to highlight the upcoming National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, scheduled for Oct. 28. Austintown and 10 other Valley police departments are participating. The others include:

  • Bazetta Township
  • Beaver Township
  • Boardman Township
  • Canfield
  • Cortland
  • Hubbard
  • Liberty Township
  • Milton Township
  • New Middletown
  • Youngstown State University

“Austintown was one of the leaders in the state in doing give-back days,” Brown said.

Austintown began accepting unused or expired prescription medication for disposal in 2009, Toth, the township DARE – Drug Abuse Resistance Education – officer, said.

Det. Sgt. Jeffrey Toth and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown urge residents to bring unused medications to collection sites for disposal.

“We realized years ago that not only are kids using cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and illegal drugs, but they were abusing medicine,” he said.

Although DEA collects medications for disposal twice annually, following the giveback days, the department also has a collection box in the lobby that is available around the clock, he said. The drugs are sealed and stored as evidence until the DEA collects it for disposal, he said.

The collections have proven to be an “excellent” way to reduce abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs among children and adults, he said.

Brown recalled hearing from a mother during an event in Warren a few years ago. She was recovering from surgery and taking a morphine-based pain medication that her young son became addicted to.

The senator said he and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, are working on legislation to crack down on illegal imports of drugs.

Drug companies played a major role by downplaying the risks of addiction, as outlined in the recent news coverage. “Too many doctors believed it and too many patients believed it,” he added.

“There’s a lot of things we should do and one of them is to partner with local communities to scale up prevention, education and treatment programs,” he said. “Nobody saw five years ago that [the drug epidemic] would explode like this. So clearly, we need more federal and state help in communities to do the treatment, the medication-assisted therapy. We don’t arrest our way out of this problem but law enforcement has a major role.”

RELATED:
Trump declines to express confidence in drug czar nominee in wake of Post/’60 Minutes’ probe

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.