The Food and Drug Administration is reinforcing its effort to detect opioids which make its way into the country illegally via mail. This comes as a result of the alarming concerns being raised about synthetic fentanyl swamping the country as well as similar drugs being shipped from China and other places.
Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of The Food and Drug Administration made some comments internally on Thursday so a group of senior managers stating that, he was placing about three dozen employees to international mail facilities run by the U.S. Postal Service to aid in detecting and analyzing suspicious packages, as well as to the FDA’s cybercrime and forensic-chemistry units.
“Given the scope of the opioid crisis, and the risk posed by these synthetic drugs, it’s my belief that we need to devote even more resources and attention to these risks,” said Gottlieb, who has made the opioid crisis a top priority in his brief tenure as FDA head.
The U.S has been battling an opioid crisis for quite some time now and the FDA has made many efforts so far to tackle the situation which is getting out of hand. Many have till now voiced out their displeasure in the growing number of casualties caused by the use of opioids.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in June proposed a 20 percent reduction in the manufacture of certain commonly prescribed opioid painkillers and other controlled substances for next year.
The proposal came as U.S. regulators and lawmakers look to step up their game to limit the supply of opioids, a class of drugs that include prescription painkillers and heroin – to combat the epidemic of abuse, overdose, and addiction.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, which organizes drugs into groups based on the risk of abuse or harm, most opioids come under the Schedule II category. The higher the category, the smaller the risk.
The request for certain Schedule II opioid painkillers including morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone, and hydrocodone has dropped after the imposition of measures such as prescription-drug monitoring programs, the DEA said.
Earlier in June, General Jeff Sessions the U.S. Attorney unveiled a plan to go after doctors and pharmacies suspected of health care fraud by over-prescribing opioids.
Over 90 Americans die daily after overdosing on opioids with drug overdoses now surpassing deaths caused by gun homicides and car crashes combined, according to a White House commission formed to combat drug addiction and the opioid crisis.
This misuse of and addiction to opioids which includes prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl has been a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare of people in the U.S
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
“Think what we would do in this country if Zika and Ebola were taking 100 lives every single day,” said Gary Mendell, the CEO of Shatterproof, a nonprofit organization seeking to end addiction.
“We would call it a national emergency and we would marshal all the resources of federal agencies to attack the issue,” Mendell told reporters. “And that’s what needs to happen here.”
Staffs of the FDA deployed at various mail facilities in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York has resorted to typically examining suspicious packages or goods identified by officials of the U.S Customs and Border Protection.
Envelopes and packages coming from over 180 countries are checked daily but often lacks accurate details that would aid in targeting shipments, he stated. In addition, he stated that many customs officials normally have to sort through large bags and bins by hand.
However, Six states have implemented mechanisms similar to a federal emergency declaration to respond to the opioid crisis at a local level. The declarations have helped Maryland, Alaska, Florida, Arizona, Massachusetts and Virginia expand access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone, improving reports of overdose deaths, Institute prescription drug monitoring programs and allocate funds for addiction services.
Policymakers and Public health leaders who seemed to be worried about the nation’s opioid epidemic are now mainly focusing on the international mail problem.
The White House opioid commission, headed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie last week knocked on the Trump Administration to boost funding, staffing, and technology to try to try to “staunch the flow of deadly synthetic opioids” arriving through the mail.
“We are miserably losing this fight to prevent fentanyl from entering our country and killing our citizens,” the report said. “Our inability to reliably detect fentanyl at our land borders and at our international mail handling facilities creates untenable vulnerabilities.”
Members of Congress also are trying to address the mail issue with Sen. Rob Portmani pushing a bipartisan bill called the STOP Act. This will require foreign postal services to provide electronic security data on all packages being shipped to the United States.