Fired Surgeon General Murthy says HHS' Tom Price should look to science for best way to treat addiction

In a series of tweets yesterday, Vivek H. Murthy, who was fired by President Donald Trump last month from his post as surgeon general, took Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price to task for his comment about the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.

Price has been on a “listening tour,” visiting states hard hit by the opioid epidemic. In a stop in West Virginia, he was asked about treatment options. He touted faith-based programs while showing less support for medication-assisted programs, which use drugs such as Suboxone to help people get and stay off opioids, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

“If we’re just substituting one opioid for another, we’re not moving the dial much,” Price said, according to the newspaper.

Murthy countered that science must guide the country’s recommendations and policies when it comes to fighting the opioid epidemic. The former surgeon general, who was dismissed from his job by the White House in April after he refused to resign, is also a vocal supporter of childhood vaccines, which Trump has called into question.

Yesterday, Murthy jumped back into the political fray on medication-based addiction treatments, saying that while some see the method as substituting one substance for another and instead advocate abstinence-only, the science doesn't back that up.

Murthy also said there was confusion about how best to treat opioid addiction, which was partly why he issued a landmark report last year that called on physicians to screen for addictions.

In March, Trump issued an executive order creating a commission focused on combating the epidemic. This week, the White House announced appointments to the committee, including:

  • Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, chairman 
  • Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina
  • Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts
  • Former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island, who is in recovery
  • Bertha K. Madras of Massachusetts