Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont said Monday he wants to haul pharmaceutical executives before Congress to explore their role in “precipitating and exacerbating” an opioid crisis that is killing tens of thousands of Americans each year.
Mr. Sanders, a hero to the progressive left, asked Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander to launch a broad probe into the drug companies’ marketing tactics, akin to a crackdown on tobacco makers in the 1990s.
“While some of these companies have made billions each year in profits, not one of them has been held fully accountable for its role in this crisis,” Mr. Sanders said.
State and federal officials are increasingly casting blame on makers of leading pain pills, saying they downplayed the risk of addiction in prior decades, resulting in legions of addicted Americans who’ve turned to heroin and deadly fentanyl.
“It is time for the United States Congress to investigate this crisis, to learn what the drug companies knew about these products, and to hold them accountable in helping communities all over this country address this deadly and expensive crisis,” Mr. Sanders said.
Several states have sued top opioid makers and distributers, as they try to catch up with the problem, though President Trump has trained his sights of late on drug dealers.
Democrats and advocates have pleaded with Mr. Trump to free up more money to expand treatment and implement policies outlined by the White House’s own commission on opioids.
Mr. Trump, however, is focused on illicit traffickers, particularly along the southern U.S. border.
“We can do all the blue ribbon committees we want,” he said Monday. “We have to get a lot tougher than we are, and we have to stop drugs from pouring across our border. We’re building the wall, believe me. We’re building the wall. Don’t even think about it.”