As China Bans Fentanyl Analogs, U.S. Government Must Fulfill Promises to Block Foreign Opioid Shipments

Washington, D.C. (April 3, 2019) – This week, Chinese officials announced that all forms of fentanyl will be labeled as controlled substances, fully banning the synthetic opioid that is increasingly responsible for tens of thousands of fatal overdoses in the U.S. every year. Given concerns of weak oversight on these new regulations, as well as official Chinese denials of the well-documented links between the U.S. opioid epidemic and foreign drug manufacturing, the U.S. government cannot afford to abdicate its own enforcement responsibilities.

Lawmakers, President Trump and security experts agree that comprehensive advance electronic data (AED), which law enforcement uses to screen and stop illegal opioid shipments, is needed on all inbound international packages to cut off the flow of drugs and dangerous counterfeit goods from abroad. The bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, signed into law in late 2018, closes a loophole that has allowed criminals and drug traffickers to send packages without AED through the global postal system, providing an accessible outlet for online opioid sellers to mail fentanyl into the U.S.

Despite continued high overdose rates and the growing prevalence of fentanyl, the federal agencies tasked with the STOP Act’s implementation have not kept the public informed about compliance since the law was passed in 2018. While the STOP Act mandated the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Service submit a report to Congress on the progress implementing the bill by the end of 2018, no such report was made public and it remains unclear whether a document was submitted to Congress at all.

“It’s promising that China recognizes the danger posed by fentanyl and all of its analogs, and is taking action to stop their manufacturing. But our own government can’t leave our health and safety up to a foreign country,” said Juliette Kayyem, senior advisor to Americans for Securing All Packages. “If Congress and this administration are dedicated to stopping this epidemic, they will ensure that the STOP Act is promptly implemented and enforced and the postal drug pipeline is closed.”