WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) today announced that they are cosponsoring bipartisan legislation that would crack down on manufacturers and traffickers of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is ravaging communities throughout the United States. The Fentanyl Sanctions Act would be the first-ever targeted fentanyl sanctions bill, aimed at pressuring the Chinese government to step up regulatory enforcement on the pharmaceutical companies responsible for the creation and distribution of the substance responsible for thousands of overdose deaths across the country.
Michigan and West Virginia are among the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis, with each state experiencing an overdose death rate roughly 50% and 250% higher than the national average, respectively. According to data from the National Institutes of Health, West Virginia experienced a roughly 400% increase in overdose deaths attributable to synthetic opioids like fentanyl from 2014 to 2018. The impact of fentanyl in Michigan is even more pronounced – with overdose deaths rising 1800% from 2012 to 2017.
“The opioid epidemic is one of the most serious public health crises this country has ever faced, and the pervasive spread of synthetic opioids has only magnified its devastating toll on our communities and families,” said Senator Peters. “Fentanyl is the deadliest drug in America, and it is driving a national emergency that has claimed thousands of lives in Michigan and every corner of our country. For too long, the Chinese government has looked the other way as manufacturers and traffickers have flooded our streets with deadly illicit drugs. This bipartisan legislation will provide the federal government with a much-needed tool to combat the opioid epidemic and hold fentanyl producers and distributors accountable for their role in this devastating crisis.”
“West Virginia has been devastated by the opioid crisis, and fentanyl plays a lethal role in far too many West Virginia communities,” said Senator Capito. “As we work to enhance enforcement and interdiction protocols on the ground locally, we must also look to the origins of these drugs and those who manufacture and distribute them with little accountability. As chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I refuse to turn a blind eye to the Chinese traffickers who profit from American deaths. I’m proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to put increased pressure on the Chinese government and to hold them to their promise to crack down on fentanyl manufacturers.”
Some officials estimate that China is responsible for roughly 90% of the illicit fentanyl in the world. The dangerous substance is far more potent than other opioids, with one kilogram containing as many as 500,000 lethal doses. A recent and dramatic surge in fentanyl overdose deaths represents an alarming and deadly shift in the opioid epidemic. While overdose deaths from heroin, methadone and other semi-synthetic opioids have decreased in recent years, researchers have witnessed a steady rise in deaths resulting from fentanyl abuse. In a single year, nearly 32,000 overdose deaths in the United States were attributable to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Experts have identified inadequate regulation of synthetic opioid production and exportation in China as a key contributor to the flood of opioids entering the United States. Earlier this year, following a commitment made to the U.S. at the G-20 in December, Chinese regulators announced that a broad array of fentanyl products would be declared controlled substances, exposing them to increased regulation. However, China has not yet lived up to this commitment and must do more to prevent fentanyl trafficking into the United States.
The Fentanyl Sanctions Act will pressure China to pursue legitimate enforcement of those regulations by directing the Administration to impose sanctions on Chinese drug manufacturers, trafficking organizations and any financial institutions that assist these entities. The bill also authorizes $600 million in new funding for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to combat foreign trafficking of synthetic opioids. The legislation would represent the first-ever targeted fentanyl sanctions meant to hold the Chinese government accountable for their failure to crack down on manufacturers and traffickers of dangerous opioids that are ravaging countless U.S. communities. The bill was introduced earlier this year by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
Senator Peters has long been committed to fighting the deadly opioid epidemic. Earlier this year, Senator Peters introduced a bipartisan bill to address staffing shortages at the nation’s ports of entry, where many illicit drugs, including fentanyl, are smuggled into the United States. Previously, Peters helped lead 15 of his colleagues in calling on the Administration to take immediate action to reduce the price of life-saving opioid overdose reversal drugs. Peters and Capito also worked together on the bipartisan YOUTH Act, signed into law as part of broader legislation, which expanded access to safe, effective medication-assisted treatment for adolescents and young adults struggling with opioid addiction.