Mayor must be first in line for drug test

The Philippine Star - - OPINION - FED­ERICO D. PAS­CUAL Jr.

IN­STEAD of sub­ject­ing grade school pupils to manda­tory drug test­ing, all of­fi­cials from Pres­i­dent Duterte down to the last barangay cap­tain should set the ex­am­ple by be­ing the first to be ex­am­ined for traces of pro­hib­ited nar­cotics.

The Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency is press­ing an ad­min­is­tra­tion plan for com­pul­sory drug test­ing in el­e­men­tary schools start­ing with Grade 4 pupils, most of whom are at the ten­der age of 10.

At P200 per stu­dent, that would re­quire an out­lay of P2.8 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates of the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion. If teach­ers are in­cluded, as some quar­ters pro­pose, the bill would go as high as P4 bil­lion. Still hid­den from view is the lucky con­trac­tor or sup­plier.

Since the drug-ob­sessed Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion seems bent on manda­tory test­ing for grade school kids, we pro­pose that gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials – from the Pres­i­dent down to the last barangay cap­tain – have them­selves tested first. We see no good rea­son why they should not.

Af­ter all, Duterte has ex­pressed fa­mously a de­sire that in a plea­sur­able sit­u­a­tion where those in­volved line up for ac­tion, the Mayor should be first.

Manda­tory in­clu­sion of all elec­tive and ap­pointive of­fi­cials in the drug test­ing should be great news to the con­trac­tor or sup­plier since the ex­panded cov­er­age would bloat the costs be­yond Deng­vaxia pro­por­tions.

Pres­i­den­tial spokesman Sal­vador Panelo in his press briefing Thurs­day en­dorsed as a “good idea” the manda­tory drug test­ing of Grade 4 stu­dents and above.

His en­dorse­ment fol­lowed a So­cial Weather Sta­tions sur­vey re­port that 51 per­cent of re­spon­dents sup­ported the test­ing plan, with 36 per­cent dis­agree­ing and 13 per­cent be­ing un­de­cided.

Jus­ti­fy­ing the plan, he said: “There is a drug men­ace in this coun­try – that will be the ba­sis. Parens pa­triae doc­trine is an­other, the state is re­spon­si­ble for the safety of the cit­i­zens… (Be­cause) that is for the ben­e­fit of the fam­ily, I think all par­ents would wel­come that.”

That con­clu­sion of uni­ver­sal ap­proval looked shaky if based on the SWS sur­vey. To serve as a re­li­able ba­sis, the poll should have had as sam­ple only the par­ents of the Grade 4 (and up) pupils tar­geted for test­ing, in­stead of a uni­ver­sal crowd of adults.

Panelo, who is also the Pres­i­dent’s chief le­gal coun­sel, opined that there is no need to amend the Com­pre­hen­sive Dan­ger­ous Drugs Act of 2002 (RA 9165) which al­lows ran­dom drug test­ing for high school and col­lege stu­dents.

It should have been pointed out in the briefing that RA 9165 talks of ran­dom, not com­pul­sory, test­ing for high school and ter­tiary stu­dents, not grade school pupils. There should also be re­quired writ­ten parental con­sent.

The ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment al­ready ini­ti­ated last year a drug test­ing pro­gram cov­er­ing 1,300 per­son­nel in its cen­tral of­fice, 3,800 in the re­gional of­fices, 26,000 in schools’ divi­sion of­fices, and a sam­ple of 10,000 teach­ers and 21,000 high school stu­dents.

Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Leonor Bri­ones said the ob­jec­tive was to de­ter­mine the preva­lence of drug use among stu­dents and to as­sess the ef­fec­tive­ness of school-based and com­mu­nity-based pre­ven­tion pro­grams.

While the pub­lic waits for Pres­i­dent Duterte and other ex­ec­u­tives to line up for drug tests, Se­nate Pres­i­dent Vi­cente Sotto III and five other sen­a­tors took it and tested neg­a­tive. The sen­a­tors were Juan Miguel Zu­biri, Gre­go­rio Honasan, Loren Le­garda, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV and An­to­nio Tril­lanes IV.

On July 30, more than 300 Se­nate em­ploy­ees were also sub­jected to the sur­prise ran­dom manda­tory drug test­ing. The re­sults have not been an­nounced.

New opi­oid 10x more po­tent than fen­tanyl

THE UNITED States Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion has ap­proved a new opi­oid for­mu­la­tion called Dsu­via that is 10 times more pow­er­ful than fen­tanyl, the syn­thetic opi­oid im­pli­cated in the 72,000 drug over­dose deaths in the US in 2017.

Fen­tanyl, which Pres­i­dent Duterte has ad­mit­ted hav­ing overused in patch form, is about 50 times more po­tent than heroin and 100 times stronger than mor­phine. Be­cause of the strength of fen­tanyl, even a small amount can lead to an over­dose or death.

Huff­in­g­tonPost re­ported Fri­day that the newly ap­proved for­mu­la­tion of Dsu­via is a tablet that goes un­der the tongue. Hospi­tals have ad­min­is­tered the drug in IV and epidu­ral forms for decades.

Dr. Scott Got­tlieb, FDA Com­mis­sioner, said the Dsu­via tablet’s de­liv­ery de­vice, which is a sin­gle-dose ap­pli­ca­tor, would only be used in med­i­cal set­tings. He cited its po­ten­tial mil­i­tary use for pain med­i­ca­tion on the bat­tle­field, where IV use is im­prac­ti­cal or im­pos­si­ble.

Crit­ics of the new opi­oid have warned that it would likely be abused. Even the chair­man of the FDA ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee that ap­proved it has spo­ken out against the de­ci­sion.

Dr. Rae­ford Brown, who could not at­tend the ad­vi­sory meet­ing, wrote to Got­tlieb and the FDA in Oc­to­ber, urg­ing the agency not to ap­prove what he called the “ex­tremely di­vert­ible drug,” mean­ing it was likely to find its way from med­i­cal cen­ters to the street.

Brown said in his let­ter: “I pre­dict that we will en­counter di­ver­sion, abuse, and death within the early months of its avail­abil­ity on the mar­ket.”

Dr. Anna Lem­bke, chief of the Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity Ad­dic­tion Medicine Dual Di­ag­no­sis Clinic, stressed that hospi­tals al­ready have many ways to ad­min­is­ter opi­oids and do not need an­other, par­tic­u­larly when weighed against the po­ten­tial risks of the po­tent new for­mu­la­tion.

She added: “There is no need for an­other opi­oid on the mar­ket, par­tic­u­larly one as po­ten­tially lethal as Dsu­via. In the midst of the worst opi­oid epi­demic in US his­tory, the FDA seems to be op­er­at­ing in a vac­uum, with­out re­gard for op­tics or pub­lic health.”

Huff­in­g­tonPost re­ported that four Demo­cratic sen­a­tors – Ed­ward Markey (D-Ma.), Richard Blu­men­thal (D-Ct.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) – op­posed the drug’s ap­proval. AD­VI­SORY: All Post­scripts can be ac­cessed at manil­a­mail.com. Fol­low au­thor on Twit­ter as @FDPas­cual. Email feed­back to fdp333@yahoo.com

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