Fact Checking Trump and the Opioid Epidemic
On May 29, President Trump said during a campaign rally in Nashville, Tennessee, that opioid-related deaths have dropped and implied it was due to the $6 billion his administration committed to fighting the epidemic. But how accurate is this statement? FactCheck.org took a look at this claim and found that Trump’s claim is nothing but misleading and an exaggeration.
“We got $6 billion for opioid and getting rid of that scourge that’s taking over our country,” President Trump said at the event. “And the numbers are way down. We’re getting the word out – bad. Bad stuff. You go to the hospital, you have a broken arm; you come out, you’re a drug addict with this crap. It’s way down. We’re doing a good job with it.”
White House Sources Cite Outdated Figures To Defend Trump’s $6 Billion Funding
Unfortunately for Trump, there is very little to show that the Trump administration is actually “doing a good job” erasing the opioid epidemic and drug abuse problems in the country. The $6 billion funding the president touted was earmarked for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years and approved in February of 2018. Earlier in March, Congress allotted $3.6 billion out of this for fiscal 2018, which ends on September 30.
When asked for evidence of support to president’s claims that “the numbers are way down,” the White House press office could only cite 2017 statistics for opioid prescriptions – a period when the president just took office, and that preceded the funding he cited. A few presidential aids even referred to figures for 2016 before Trump had assumed office.
As FactCheck reported, statistics show opioids prescription figures are declining in recent years, but opioid-related deaths continue to rise. Analysts think this is due to illicit acquisition of the drug, not because of medical prescriptions. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid prescriptions in 2012 rose above 225 million but dropped to 214 million by 2016.
Trump May Be Doing His Best to Overcome Opioid Addictions, but It Is Not Enough
President Trump on March 27, 2017, established a presidential commission tasked with combating the opioid epidemic. However, any commission achievements will be part of what existing healthcare experts, insurers and regulatory agencies are already doing from the tenures of past administrations to combat opioid addiction.
As Fact Check reported, a report by IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science said the drop in prescription rates “has been driven by ‘changes in clinical usage, which have been influenced by regulatory and reimbursement policies and legislation that have been increasingly restricting prescription opioid use since 2012.’ In 2016 and 2017, seven states added laws on restricting prescriptions, such as the volume or number of days opioids can be prescribed to new patients. A total of 24 states now have such laws, the report said.”
In the face of what Trump is doing to lower drug addictions in the country, all hands should be on deck to drive down the opioid epidemic. The CDC reported that 42,000 people died of prescription and illegal opioids overdose in 2016. The agency provisionally stated that opioid overdose deaths could rise to 46,041 within 12 months ending in October 2017. The increase in deaths is largely due to illicit opioid use as Fact Check reported.
One thing, however, is clear from several independent reports and analyses, Trump’s suggestion that his $6 billion funding for the opioid epidemic has brought the numbers “way down” is misleading and premature. Opioid prescription numbers may be on the way down thanks to increased awareness of the opioid epidemic and regulatory changes implemented over the past several years, but the current opioid epidemic is still very much a problem. Hopefully, Trump’s $6 billion pledge will, in fact, help stem the epidemic.