A Conversation on the Biden-Harris Administration’s Drug Control Policy

Last year, the Biden-Harris Administration announced seven drug policy priorities that included specific actions to reduce drug overdoses, promote recovery, reduce the supply of illicit substances, and enhance harm reduction. Against this backdrop, alcohol and drug overdoses have continued to increase due in part to the pandemic, and many families and communities continue struggling with the impact of alcohol and substance use.

On April 6, the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics and the Institute for Addiction Science (IAS) will host a conversation with the White House Director of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Rahul Gupta. Schaeffer Center Senior Fellow Rosalie Liccardo Pacula and IAS Associate Director of Community Engagement and Health Equity Ricky Bluthenthal will join Dr. Gupta to discuss the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities and how his office is leveraging science to develop evidence-based policies.

Event Date
Wednesday, April 06, 2022
12:00 PM Pacific
Via Zoom

Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH, MBA, FACP, is the first medical doctor to serve as the Director of National Drug Control Policy and lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a component of the Executive Office of the President. ONDCP coordinates the nation’s $40 billion drug budget and federal policies, including prevention, harm reduction, treatment, recovery support, and supply reduction.

Through his work as a physician, a state and local leader, an educator, and a senior leader of a national nonprofit organization, Dr. Gupta has dedicated his career to improving public health and public safety.

A board-certified internist, Dr. Gupta has been a practicing primary care physician for more than 25 years, and has served in private practice and public health in towns as small as 1,900 residents and cities as large as 25 million. He has served as a local public health official and as the West Virginia Health Commissioner under two governors, where he brought together public health, law enforcement, healthcare, faith-based, business, and other community partners to solve local problems in novel and innovative ways. As the state’s Chief Health Officer, he led the opioid crisis response and launched a number of pioneering public health initiatives, including the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Birthscore program to identify high-risk infants, and the groundbreaking statewide Social Autopsy, which examined the lives of overdose victims to determine the factors that led to their deaths and what services could have prevented their deaths. This led the state to expand access to naloxone as well as treatment services including those for incarcerated individuals in order to save lives and help people transition back into society. He supported the expansion of harm reduction programs to more than a dozen sites across the state. He was also instrumental in expanding state-of the-art, comprehensive and integrative medical and behavioral health programs for pregnant and postpartum women.

His lifelong commitment to educating the next generation of physicians and policymakers has led him to hold academic appointments throughout his career including as a clinical professor in the Department of Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and as visiting faculty at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Additionally, his passion for global health led him to join the March of Dimes as Chief Medical and Health Officer and Senior Vice President, where he provided strategic oversight for the organization’s domestic and global medical and public health efforts.

Dr. Gupta is a national and global thought leader and a driver of innovative public policies who practices what he preaches. He is a buprenorphine-waivered practitioner, providing medication-assisted treatment for people with opioid use disorder. He has been recognized for his career of public service by the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and by Governing Magazine, which named him their Public Health Official of the Year in 2018. Additionally, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Charleston Gazette-Mail named him as one of its West Virginians of the Year in 2017 for his service to the state.

The son of an Indian diplomat, Rahul was born in India and grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. At age 21, he completed medical school at the University of Delhi followed by subspecialty training in pulmonary medicine. He earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and a global master’s of business administration degree from the London School of Business and Finance. He is married to Dr. Seema Gupta, a physician in the Veterans Administration for over a decade. They are the proud parents of identical twin sons, Arka and Drew.

Ricky N. Bluthenthal, Ph.D., is the Associate Dean for Social Justice and Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and a Professor in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences and the Institute for Prevention Research in the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. He received a BA in History and Sociology from the University of California Santa Cruz and a MA and PhD in sociology from the University of California Berkeley. His research has established the effectiveness of syringe exchange programs, tested novel interventions and strategies to reduce HIV risk and improve HIV testing among injection drug users and men who have sex with men, documented how community conditions contribute to health disparities, and examined health policy implementation. His current studies include an observational cohort study of how cannabis legalization impacts use patterns and health outcomes of cannabis and opioids among people who inject drugs and a randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of a single session intervention to reduce injection initiation risk behaviors among established people who inject drugs. Dr. Bluthenthal has authored or co-authored over 170 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals such as the American Journal of Public Health, Social Science and Medicine, The Lancet, Addiction, and Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research among others.

Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, PhD, holds the Elizabeth Garrett Chair in Health Policy, Economics & Law and Professor of Health Policy and Management in the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.  She was previously a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, served as director of RAND's BING Center for Health Economics and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.  Pacula’s research over the last 20 years has largely focused on issues related to illegal or imperfect markets (healthcare markets, insurance markets, illicit drug markets), measurement of the size of these markets, the impact they have on behavior (suppliers and consumers), and the effectiveness of policy interventions targeting behavior within these markets.  More recently her work has focused on proper measurement and evaluation of opioid and cannabis policies in terms of their impacts on use, misuse and health.  In work undertaken by the NIH P50 Opioid Policy Center that she co-Directs, Dr. Pacula is exploring policies influencing the diffusion of buprenorphine and naloxone, as well as the impact of OxyContin reformulation, insurance expansion, medical marijuana, prescription drug monitoring programs, and other supply restrictions. She is president of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP), a faculty research fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), and serves on the editorial board of several journals. She received her PhD in economics from Duke University.