The federal government’s top disease fighter, who built his career battling the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, says the opioid epidemic will be even worse.
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has dubbed the overprescription and abuse of painkillers the “public health crisis of our time” and said it will take a massive effort to combat the problem.
“I would say the opioids-fueled epidemic is clearly already more deadly than the AIDS epidemic ever was,” Dr. Redfield told The Washington Times in an interview that ranged across the agency’s priorities, from thwarting pandemic flu to tracking drug-resistant pathogens and bolstering immunization rates.
Dr. Redfield said his agency is working with states and pharmacies to track the opioid epidemic in real time and collect good data on overdose deaths more quickly. He is aiming to release official 2017 figures this fall. The public response to the crisis has been relying on data from 2016, when 42,000 Americans were killed from opioids alone.
It is unclear what the new figures will reveal, but many researchers believe opioid-related deaths will eclipse the 48,000 lives that HIV/AIDS claimed in 1995, its most deadly year.
Either way, Dr. Redfield said, drug addiction already is exacting a bigger annual toll.