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FDA Head Talks Opioid Abuse in W.Va. Roundtable

Ashton Marra
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The state with one of the highest overdose death rates in recent years welcomed Dr. Robert Califf Tuesday for a roundtable discussion focused on opioid abuse. 

Califf is the new head of the Federal Drug Administration- the federal agency that oversees medications for both people and animals and monitors the nation's food supply, among other things. 

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who campaigned against Califf's presidential appointment earlier this year, said before the roundtable Tuesday in Charleston he plans to work closely with the FDA and DEA-- the federal Drug Enforcement Agency-- to cut down on the number of prescription drugs coming into the state.

"I want to see how connected FDA and DEA, how well they're connected and talking to each other because both of those agencies are very much a part of the epidemic that we have going on right now and I want to know what they're doing to stop it," Manchin said.

Gov. Tomblin agrees, he believes federal agencies should be looking to curb the amount of prescription drugs being prescribed in a state, but for Tomblin, the focus is on reducing pill mills, something he says is playing out in lawsuits across West Virginia. 

"Today we can make the point [about] what they can do to better help the state keep from having pill mills and getting more and more people addicted to prescription drugs."

Before the roundtable, which included a question and answer session with some of the top substance abuse experts and officials from across the state including many from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Tomblin touted the state's progress in curbing addiction and expanding access to community based treatment during his time in office. 

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