What to Know in Washington: Biden Debuts Plan to Cut Drug Deaths

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The White House has developed a new strategy to reduce the growing number of overdose deaths linked to xylazine, a potent animal sedative which officials say is fairly easy to obtain and is increasingly being combined with opioids and other drugs.

In a plan set to be released today, the Biden administration is calling on the FDA to develop and authorize rapid tests for xylazine and fentanyl for use in clinical settings. The administration will also push for testing standardization as well as devise an algorithm to predict whether someone used xylazine based on information like community prevalence and flesh wounds, which are associated with the drug, Ian Lopez reports.

Photographer: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

The Drug Enforcement Agency must publish an implementation report on the plan’s objectives by February.

The White House is seeking to reduce xylazine-related fatalities by 15% in at least three of the country’s four census regions by 2025. The number of overdose deaths involving xylazine jumped more than 30-fold to 3,468 between 2018 and 2021, CDC data show. Almost all of those deaths also involved fentanyl.

Because xylazine isn’t an opioid, it doesn’t respond to medications like naloxone, which are used to help reverse the effects of a drug overdose. Drugs like yohimbine and tolazoline are used to reverse xylazine’s effects in animals, but it’s unknown whether they’re safe or effective for people, according to the FDA.

Test strips for xylazine first became commercially available in late March, sold by Ontario, Canada-based BTNX for $2 each in packs of 100. States have moved to expand testing, with New York announcing in May that it would distribute free test strips and Delaware piloting a program supplying combined fentanyl-xylazine test strips.

Officials have also been working to make xylazine harder to get. The administration said it’s looking into what regulatory options exist to further disrupt the illegal supply of the substance, while still maintaining a legitimate inventory for veterinary medicine and research purposes.

Drug dealers are likely purchasing cheap xylazine and mixing it with opioids to maximize profits, according to the DEA’s 2022 report. US wholesale prices for a kilogram of heroin or fentanyl run to the tens of thousands of dollars, while the same amount of xylazine can be purchased from Chinese suppliers for $20 or less, the agency said.

Vice President Kamala Harris will be convening state attorneys general next week to discuss how they’re addressing the fentanyl crisis, and conversations will include xylazine, White House drug czar Rahul Gupta said. Read the full story by Madison Muller and Ilena Peng.


  • President Joe Biden will attend the NATO meeting at the Lithuanian Exhibition and Conference Center around 7 a.m.
  • Around 11 a.m., Biden will participate in a bilateral meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
  • Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will gaggle with reporters at the Press Filing Center in Vilnius, Lithuania around 8:30 a.m.


  • The House is back at 2 p.m. to vote on a pair of bills to trim finance regulations.
  • The Senate returns at 10 a.m. for votes on nominees.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

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