US President Joe Biden has selected West Virginia’s former health commissioner Indian-American Dr Rahul Gupta as the country’s top drug policy official, according to a media report on Tuesday.
Dr Gupta, the top health official at maternal-and-child advocacy group March of Dimes, will be nominated as the next director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Washington Post reported, quoting two White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Dr Gupta, a primary-care doctor who led Biden’s transition efforts for the drug policy office, would be the first physician to serve as drug czar if confirmed by the Senate.
“President Biden’s nomination of Dr. Rahul Gupta to be the first physician ever to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is another historic step in the Administration’s efforts to turn the tide of our nation’s addiction and overdose epidemic,” the White House said in a statement.
Dr. Gupta brings firsthand experience as a medical doctor and public health official using evidence-based strategies to address the overdose epidemic in West Virginia, it said.
“We hope he will be confirmed by the Senate soon, the statement added.
Gupta would replace Regina LaBelle, who has served as the office’s acting director since January.
The three-decade-old drug policy office coordinates national policy around fighting substance-use disorders, including the response to an opioid crisis that has worsened during the pandemic.
Gupta, a specialist in internal medicine and preventive medicine, has publicly warned that the pandemic probably exacerbated addiction-related public health problems, citing the shift from in-person care.
“When those services are either shut down or turned into virtual services, more people can be denied those services and that only leads to more suffering, Gupta told Sinclair Broadcast Group in a news report recently.
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