President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill combating the nation’s opioid epidemic, which he last year called a public health emergency.
The bill provides funding for federal agencies and states to prioritize access to addiction treatment. It also enables authorities to take more interventionary measures, such as preventing overprescription.
Trump signed the bill on Oct. 25, a year after he declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.
One focus on the bill, which was passed by the U.S. Senate last month, is on the imported drug fentanyl. China produces 68 percent of the world’s supply of this addictive and deadly synthetic drug, which is typically smuggled into the United States via Mexico. It has been responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans, including the musician Prince and more recently the 18-year-old stepson of Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comics. In 2017, about 30,000 Americans died due to fentanyl-related drug problems.
“Together we are going to end the scourge of drug addiction,” Trump said at a White House bill-signing ceremony. “Or at least make an extremely big dent in this terrible, terrible problem.”
The opioid bill comes with a measure to guard against corruption in the addiction-recovery business. People and firms using kickbacks, bribes, or rebates for recovery homes and private health insurance for addiction treatment can be fined up to $200,000 or up to 10 years in prison.
While the use of kickbacks to attract patients on Medicare or Medicaid has been illegal since 1972, it’s not until now that the private insurance industry has been subject to similar restrictions.