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Biden to Nominate Former West Va. Health Official Rahul Gupta as Drug Czar

President Biden is expected to nominate Rahul Gupta, M.D. M.PH., M.B.A. to serve as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), according to multiple news outlets.

If confirmed, Gupta, a buprenorphine-waivered physician, will be the first physician to serve as the office’s director. Most recently Gupta served as senior vice president and chief medical and health officer at the March of Dimes. Previously he served as West Virginia’s health commissioner and is known to be an ally of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

NABH has learned that harm-reduction advocates do not support Gupta’s nomination because of their concerns about how he managed an HIV outbreak in West Virginia, citing a lack of support for needle exchanges, an evidence-based practice that reduces HIV, viral hepatitis, and other infections. ONDCP’s drug policy priorities published in April 2021 have strong harm-reduction priorities, including funding support syringe exchange programs and amplifying best practices for fentanyl test strips.

Gupta has been a frontrunner for the position, along with Regina LaBelle, currently ONDCP’s acting director who took a leave of absence from her role as a distinguished scholar and program director at the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute.

NABH coordinated a stakeholder letter to the Biden Administration that requested the president appoint an ONDCP director to address the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths ever recorded, stating that the pandemic exacerbated what was already an inadequate level of treatment for people with a substance use disorder in the United States.