U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) this week sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to prioritize the issue of synthetic opioids like fentanyl that are being manufactured in China in his current meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“There is no dispute that China is the largest manufacturer of illicit fentanyl and other dangerous synthetic drugs,” states Portman in the letter. “During your bilateral meeting with President Xi, it is paramount that you send a clear message that the United States will work tirelessly to prevent fentanyl and other synthetic drugs produced in China from entering the United States.”
Fentanyl addiction and overdose deaths are a major component of the current opioid crisis in the United States. Companies based in China are the primary manufacturing sources of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. These companies then take advantage of weak international mail security standards to ship these deadly drugs directly through the U.S. postal system, thereby bypassing U.S Customs.
Fentanyl, and other even more powerful synthetic opiods like Carfentanil, are many times more potent than heroin. On the street they are mixed with heroin because they are cheap and easy to obtain. This is one of the main causes of the recent spike in overdoses in Ohio and across America. Even though technically China banned Carfentanil in February, it appears that not much has changed as of yet.
President Trump addressed the opioid epidemic and Chinese involvement during his presidential campaign. Senator Portman noted that and supported the bill aimed at stopping the flow of opioids from overseas. Senator Portman helped make his point by using President Trump’s own words, noting that he promised to “close the shipping loopholes that China and others are exploiting” and vowed to “crack down on this abuse, and give law enforcement the tools they need to accomplish this mission.”
Just last week President Trump announced the formation of a new commission charged with researching the opioid crisis and identifying new ways to address it.
A copy of the letter, and additional information, can be found on Senator Portman’s website and the entire letter is also included below.
Dear Mr. President:
Thank you for your commitment to address the opioid epidemic. As you know, fentanyl is a significant factor in the growing number of Americans dying from drug overdoses in recent years. There is no dispute that China is the largest manufacturer of illicit fentanyl and other dangerous synthetic drugs. I ask that you prioritize this issue in your bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths involving fentanyl and synthetic opioids rose from 5,544 in 2014 to 9,580 in 2015, an increase of 73 percent. Fentanyl is 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin and often emerges in the illegal drug market laced with powder heroin or pressed into tablets designed to mimic the appearance of a prescription opioid.
U.S. law enforcement agencies report that the majority of fentanyl found in the illegal drug market is produced in China. Law enforcement has detected efforts by drug traffickers to smuggle fentanyl across both the Northern border from Canada and the Southwest border from Mexico. However, increasingly Fentanyl comes into the United States directly from China by express and traditional mail. Chemical testing of fentanyl seized by law enforcement from the United States Postal Service (USPS), and well as from private or express consignment shipping companies (UPS, DHL, FedEx) suggest that the fentanyl coming by direct shipments is deadly, with a purity of higher than 90 percent.
The production of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs thrive in China because of the country’s expansive chemical and pharmaceutical industries. China’s pharmaceutical market is the second largest in the world by revenue, consisting of more than 5,000 companies with a revenue of $105 billion in 2014. The U.S. Department of State estimates that nationwide, China has more than 160,000 chemical companies operating legally and illegally, with some facilities manufacturing tons of chemicals every week and others producing more than one million pills a day.
While there have been actions taken by the Chinese, more aggressive oversight of Chinese chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturers is warranted. In 2015, following pressure from the United States, Chinese officials scheduled more than 100 substances. In February 2017, the Chinese scheduled carfentanil, a synthetic opioid more powerful than fentanyl that is responsible for hundreds of overdoses in the United States.
Last fall, you addressed fentanyl and the opioid epidemic and embraced the bipartisan solution I’ve introduced, saying “we will close the shipping loopholes that China and others are exploiting to send dangerous drugs across our borders in the hands of our own postal service. These traffickers use loopholes in the Postal Service to mail fentanyl and other drugs to users and dealers in the U.S.A Trump administration will crack down on this abuse, and give law enforcement the tools they need to accomplish this mission.”
That is exactly what the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which I introduced with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), will do. This bipartisan legislation closes this loophole and requires USPS to provide advanced electronic data to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB). Access to electronic customs data for international mail will enable CPB to more effectively enforce U.S. customs and trade laws and stop illicit drugs and other counterfeit goods from crossing our borders.
During your bilateral meeting with President Xi, it is paramount that you send a clear message that the United States will work tirelessly to prevent fentanyl and other synthetic drugs produced in China from entering the United States.
The opioid epidemic continues to devastate communities, families, and individuals across our country. I urge you to prioritize this issue in your discussions with President Xi and seek a commitment to stop fentanyl and other deadly drugs coming from China into the United States.