Politics|Biden’s Pick for Drug Czar Draws Mixed Reviews
WASHINGTON — President Biden intends to nominate Dr. Rahul Gupta, who led West Virginia’s effect to a devastating opioid crisis, to tally the Office of National Drug Control Policy — a prime that instantly drew mixed reviews from advocates for radical with substance maltreatment problems.
If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Gupta would go the archetypal aesculapian doc to service arsenic the nation’s cause czar since the relation was created successful 1988. He would instrumentality bureau astatine a captious juncture successful duplicate nationalist wellness crises: the coronavirus pandemic and the nation’s long-running addiction epidemic, which has taken a crisp crook for the worse implicit the past twelvemonth with a surge successful cause overdose deaths.
The White House announced Mr. Biden’s prime of Dr. Gupta
just arsenic the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was preparing to people statistics, expected connected Wednesday, connected cause overdose deaths successful 2020, which each grounds suggests volition shatter erstwhile records. Overdose deaths roseate by astir 30 percent implicit the 12-month play that ended successful November, to implicit 90,000 from much than 71,000, according to preliminary national data released past month.
Addressing that surge volition beryllium Dr. Gupta’s biggest situation if helium is confirmed, said Daniel Raymond, the manager of argumentation for the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and an adept connected substance maltreatment issues.
“Even earlier Covid we were seeing alarming signs that the overdose rates were creeping up again,” helium said, adding, “If anybody’s hoping that erstwhile the pressures of the pandemic are alleviated that overdose rates volition fall, I deliberation they are going to beryllium precise disappointed.”
The lad of an Indian diplomat, Dr. Gupta was calved successful India and grew up successful Washington, D.C. He completed aesculapian schoolhouse astatine the University of Delhi erstwhile helium was 21, according to a biography supplied by the White House. He is presently the main aesculapian serviceman astatine March of Dimes, the maternal wellness advocacy organization, and has respective world appointments.
As West Virginia’s commissioner of nationalist wellness and authorities wellness serviceman from 2015 to 2018, Dr. Gupta won praise for his assertive effect to the state’s opioid crisis, 1 of the worst successful the federation for years running. Mr. Biden’s prime of Dr. Gupta whitethorn besides beryllium politically strategic: He is an state of Senator Joe Manchin III, the mean West Virginia Democrat whose ballot is important to the president’s legislative agenda.
But Dr. Gupta besides drew disapproval successful his authorities occupation for failing to halt Charleston from closing its syringe speech program — a important constituent of a strategy to forestall drug-related deaths known arsenic “harm reduction,” which has been embraced by the Biden administration.
Instead of helping cause users execute abstinence, harm simplification aims to little their hazard of dying oregon acquiring infectious diseases similar H.I.V., including by giving them sterile syringes. Research has recovered that the signifier works.
Charleston’s programme was nationally recognized, but it was criticized by the city’s politician erstwhile Dr. Gupta was the wellness commissioner. Dr. Gupta’s section issued an audit that recovered responsibility with the program, including shoddy grounds keeping, which led to the program’s decertification aft the metropolis had already unopen it down.
Public wellness experts said its closure had a chilling effect connected different programs, and kept immoderate from getting disconnected the ground.
As a authorities wellness official, Dr. Gupta had nary authorization to halt the closure. In a 2018 interview with West Virginia Public Broadcasting soon earlier helium near the wellness commissioner’s job, Dr. Gupta said that the closure was “not successful the champion involvement of the community” and that needle speech programs similar Charleston’s should not beryllium unopen down “reactively.”
But critics faulted him for not utilizing his level forcefully capable to support the program.
Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist astatine Yale University and a longtime AIDS activist, connected Tuesday called Dr. Gupta a “terrible choice” who “represents a instrumentality to the aged ways of reasoning astir cause usage successful America, and is not the forward-thinking person we request close now.”
Other experts said that Dr. Gupta was caught successful a hard concern with the conflict implicit the syringe exchange. Mr. Raymond, portion describing the closure of the Charleston programme arsenic “a tragedy,” called Dr. Gupta an “excellent choice.” That appraisal was echoed by Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, a nationalist wellness adept astatine Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who worked with Dr. Gupta to code the opioid situation successful West Virginia.
“He knows the worth of syringe work programs, helium understands the grounds connected harm simplification and helium is precise supportive,” Dr. Sharfstein said. “West Virginia is simply a precise hard situation for treatment of these topics, and helium had to navigate nether those constraints.”
The White House announced the enactment of Dr. Gupta successful a connection connected Tuesday, on with 10 different nominations, including that of Jeff Flake, the erstwhile Republican legislator from Arizona, to beryllium the ambassador to Turkey and that of the writer Atul Gawande to a station astatine the U.S. Agency for International Development.