Top Biden official joins Welch in Rutland to talk prescription drug and opioids

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 5:44 PM EST
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Making your medication cheaper and battling addiction-- that was the focus of top Biden administration officials who visited Rutland Monday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra highlighted last fall’s Inflation Reduction Act along with now-U.S. Sen. Peter Welch.

“The federal government has never been there to advocate for consumers against price gouging,” said Welch, D-Vermont.

The law, in part, allows the feds to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers, a move they say will bring down the price of your medication. It also caps the price of insulin at $35 a month.

“Why is it that made-in-America drugs cost made-in-America Americans more money than they cost in France, England, Italy, Japan? Why do we have to pay a better price?” Becerra said.

The goal is to keep prescription costs for Medicare patients below $2,000 annually.

Down the road at the Rutland Regional Medical Center, the conversation shifted as police and medical professionals outlined the social cost of illicit drugs and the gaps in battling opioid addiction.

“Insufficient access to residential treatment is both a lack of residential treatment beds and the lack of funding to support patient placement,” said Judi Fox of the Rutland Regional Medical Center.

Last year, Rutland saw 117 overdoses; 19 were fatal. The spike is driven by the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

“The addition of fentanyl to heroin also means that it requires additional doses of Narcan to patients, and oftentimes patients are requiring IV infusions over an extended period of time,” said Alison Davis of the Rutland Regional Medical Center.

Now, another dangerous drug in the mix, the animal sedative xylazine, is putting additional strain on law enforcement and emergency room staff.

They say they need more funding for mobile methadone clinics, recovery programming and residential treatment centers.

“What we’re seeing is those who do go to residential treatment are coming out too soon,” Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said.

Becerra acknowledges this conversation is just the start.

“On this issue, behavioral health, substance use disorder-- we have work to do,” he said.

Becerra and Welch will now take these findings on what’s working and what isn’t back to Capitol Hill and make their pitch for more funding.

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