WASHINGTON, March 8 – U.S. bipartisan trio congressmen on Monday unveiled a new law that will permanently ban illegal versions of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic painkiller that has helped propagate opioid epidemics and fatalities.
The proposed bill, introduced by Democrat Chris Pappas and Republicans Dan Newhouse and Ted Budd, comes days before a temporary ban on copies of fentanyl chemicals known as analogue expires on Friday.
For years, the Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been trying to curb the proliferation of chemicals such as fentanyl, which are commonly produced in China and exported to the United States from Mexico.
Fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine, is classified as a Schedule II drug, which means that it is more addictive but has therapeutic, usually therapeutic, pain relief.
But Chinese-based pharmacists have created several versions of the modified drug, which along with real fentanyl has flooded US roads and contributed to the deaths of nearly 500,000 American opioid users over two decades.
To combat these illegal versions, the DEA has previously delayed the introduction of a new fentanyl analogue that is not on Schedule 1, the same legal category of heroin-like drugs that are considered medically inactive.
In 2018, the DEA came up with a new approach, using its emergency power to organize all illegal versions of fentanyl copycat broadly in Schedule 1 as a single class, successfully blocking it.
That authority still exists, thanks to repeated short-term extensions from the ANC, which has yet to act on a long-term solution over concerns that a permanent ban could impede scientific research on fentanyl analogues.
“This bill seems to be closing a significant gap,” Pappas said in a telephone interview. “We have to make sure we stay ahead of the cartels.”
Pappas added that his proposed bill contains provisions that he hopes will address researchers’ concerns by making “less difficult and easier” for scientists.
The new law introduced on Monday is not expected to pass before the latest DEA emergency fentanyl analogue program expires.
However, Pappas told that lawmakers were looking at another temporary extension as part of a broader spending bill until a permanent solution was reached.