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FLEOA Weighs in on Fentanyl Scheduling

Chairman Frank Pallone
House Energy and Commerce Committee
2125 Rayburn HOB 
Washington, D.C. 20515 

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, RM
House Energy and Commerce Committee
2125 Rayburn HOB 
Washington, D.C. 20515 

Dear Chairman Pallone and Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers: 

We write to you to underscore an important topic to consider during the Committees hearing titled "An Epidemic within a Pandemic: Understanding Substance Use and Misuse in America" which is the urgent need to extend the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) temporary class wide scheduling order for fentanyl-related substances before it expires on May 6, 2021. 

Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates there were an estimated 50,000 deaths from synthetic opioids, including fentanyl-related overdoses, between July 2019 and July 2020.  As tragic as those figures are, the number of overdose calls that law enforcement or public safety have responded to  and the illnesses and injuries that first responders have experienced from contact with fentanyl-related substances is not captured by those statistics.  In total, the true epidemic nature of the fentanyl crisis due to the proliferation of this highly dangerous drug on the streets of America cannot be understated and has only been exacerbated during the pandemic.  

The CDC, one of our nation’s preeminent medical policy and research boards that is leading the COVID response, has found that "almost 57% of people who died from an overdose tested positive for fentanyl and fentanyl analogues also tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin.”  The DEA has also warned about an alarming trend of poly substance use, in which fentanyl is mixed with other illicit drugs such as heroin or cocaine, leading to more potent drug combinations. Yet, we are told by those that want fentanyl to be taken off the schedule that this highly dangerous drug is needed for "research” despite the CDC warnings of its nature, addictiveness, lethality and most importantly, lack of efficacy. 

The Surgeon General and Department of Health and Human Services agree and have maintained  fentanyl under opioids,  "a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.” Despite the three United States medical policy and research departments stance on fentanyl, some continue to try and argue that this toxic substance is needed for research as a rouse to debate the merits of the federal sentencing guidelines, which is a debate we could have, related to scheduled substances.  But instead of having that debate, the proponents of removing the DEA’s scheduling authority cloak it in the form of "research needs.”  

Additionally, as the DOJ pointed out, much of the illicit fentanyl in the United States is manufactured abroad, particularly in China or using Chinese-made precursor chemicals. DEA’s temporary class-wide order, extended by P.L. 116-114 until May 6th, 2021, has played a significant role in curbing the flow of Chinese-origin fentanyl-related substances into the United States.  They went on to say that "The Chinese scheduling action, coupled with DEA’s regulatory authority, enacted on February 6, 2018, which placed all non-scheduled fentanyl-related substances in Schedule I temporarily, on an emergency basis, for two years, has resulted in a significant decrease in direct Chinese-origin fentanyl-related substances being encountered in the United States since Fiscal Year 2019.” 

Yet despite the date from the nation’s preeminent medical policy boards and the expertise of the law enforcement officer dealing with the fallout from this dangerous substance, we are debating loosening our controls of it?  That’s illogical at the least and very dangerous at the worst. 

We would encourage the Congress to continue to listen to the expertise of the DEA, CDC, HHS, Surgeon General and law enforcement community.  Maintain the scheduling authority of this dangerous drug for the DEA and keep America and its streets safer from this dangerous illicit drug.  

Sincerely, 

Larry Cosme 
National President 
 
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