Flu Blamed For US Drug Czar's Fainting Spells

It appears that the flu is to blame for causing the White House drug czar to faint twice on a visit to Massachusetts.

Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske fell ill and fainted at about 2 p.m. Tuesday while speaking to law students at Harvard University, a spokesman said.

Emergency workers treated Kerlikowske at the scene and took him to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was evaluated and released.

Kerlikowske, 61, fainted again at about 6 p.m. at Logan International Airport while on his way back to Washington, D.C.

Kerlikowske spent the night at the hospital and tests indicate he has the flu, drug office spokesman Rafael Lemaitre said early Wednesday.

Although it's unclear when he'll be discharged, Kerlikowske is feeling better and expects to return to work shortly, Lemaitre said.

Kerlikowske is President Barack Obama's chief adviser on drug issues.

Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief, has traveled recently to discuss prescription pill abuse, which he calls the country's fastest-growing substance abuse problem.

He says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have classified
prescription drug abuse as an epidemic.

Last month, Kerlikowske made a three-day visit to Kentucky, where he said he was impressed by the collaboration he saw between public and private sectors in combating the problem.

Last week, he visited Florida, where he said he was encouraged that the state may move forward with a planned database for tracking prescription drugs.

"I clearly believe (databases) are an effective tool in dealing with the prescription drug problem," Kerlikowske told an audience at Florida State University's law school.

That visit came a week after raids led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on South Florida pain clinics resulted in the arrests of 20 people.

Painkillers, he said, are now second to marijuana in drug abuse among Floridians.


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