Opioid Epidemic Taking Heartbreaking Toll on Families and Communities Across the Nation

‘Americans across the country — law enforcement, nurses, family members and many more — have dedicated themselves to reversing this crisis. And Congress has taken significant steps to help combat this growing problem on a bipartisan basis.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the nationwide opioid epidemic and the president’s nominee for Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Scott Gottlieb:

“The heroin and prescription opioid epidemic is taking a heartbreaking toll on families and communities across the nation. Experts estimate that as many as 2 million Americans are struggling with prescription drug addiction — with heroin and opioid overdoses claiming an average of 91 lives every day.

“We continue to read the devastating headlines too, like one article published by CNN entitled ‘A Generation of Heroin Orphans.’ It told the story of five Kentucky children living with their grandparents due to their mother’s addiction. Sadly, this family is not unique. Nearly 3 million grandparents or other relatives across the country are caring for grandchildren, and, according to experts, this uptick in children left without their parents is due — at least in part — to this epidemic.  

“It’s just one of the many reasons why the heroin and prescription opioid crisis requires continued action.  Americans across the country — law enforcement, nurses, family members and many more — have dedicated themselves to reversing this crisis. And Congress has taken significant steps to help combat this growing problem on a bipartisan basis.

“Through legislation like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the 21st Century Cures bill, we authorized important ways to help fight the opioid epidemic — through things like expanded education and prevention initiatives, improved treatment programs, and bolstered law enforcement efforts — and the implementation of these initiatives is already helping tackle this crisis.  I was proud to support these pieces of legislation because I knew they could make a real impact in the fight against opioid abuse, and they are. We were able to take another positive step last week as well.

“Congress passed an important piece of funding legislation, now law, that is helping advance and support many of the programs that Congress authorized in CARA and the 21st Century Cures bill last year — programs that can advance medical innovation and promote research and treatment development.  That funding legislation dedicated significant new resources to the fight against the opioid epidemic. It helped fund groundbreaking research into the field of regenerative medicine. With its passage, Congress took one more critical step forward in the advancement of medical research and addiction treatment. The Senate will soon have another opportunity to move ahead in the fight against devastating diseases and opioid abuse by voting to confirm Dr. Scott Gottlieb to oversee the Food and Drug Administration.

“The FDA plays a central role in the approval of new drug treatments and therapies. An important part of the 21st Century Cures Act provided an accelerated pathway for the FDA to approve regenerative medicines. I look forward to having a Commissioner like Dr. Gottlieb who is committed to the development of groundbreaking medicines and treatments to combat serious illnesses.  Additionally, the FDA will continue to be a crucial partner as states like Kentucky continue their fight against the opioid epidemic. The FDA plays an important regulatory and oversight role in combatting this crisis. 

“I have encouraged the agency to incentivize the approval of safer, more abuse deterrent formulations of drugs, and I am glad when they have concurred. These types of constructive policy decisions show an FDA that is ready to join the fight against heartbreaking disease and opioid abuse, and I am proud to support that kind of rigorous oversight from the agency.

“Dr. Gottlieb has the necessary experience to serve in this key role. Not only has he worked in hospitals, interacting directly with those affected by disease and treatment, but he has also developed and analyzed medical policies in both the public and private sectors. He formed his perspectives on the dynamic public health sector by overseeing medical research and innovation projects.

“In 2005, Dr. Gottlieb was appointed the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs. He also has served as a senior advisor to the FDA Commissioner, and as the agency’s Director of Medical Policy Development.  As a practicing physician with a wealth of policy experience, Dr. Gottlieb has the necessary qualifications to lead the FDA at this critical time. The Senate voted to advance his nomination last night on a bipartisan basis, and I look forward to his confirmation.”

Related Issues: Nominations, Opioid Abuse