Markey Joins Shaheen, Senate Letter Requesting European Union Support to Combat the Fentanyl Crisis

(Washington, D.C.) — U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) joined senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and a group of senators in a letter asking the European Commission to support action at the United Nations to regulate precursor chemicals of fentanyl. The senators encourage the European Commission to vote in favor of designating these chemicals as Table 1 substances under the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances when the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meets in Vienna in March. Regulation of these chemicals would help curb the manufacturing and trafficking of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. Fentanyl, which is often mixed with heroin, has contributed to three-fourths of the opioid deaths in New Hampshire, which has the highest synthetic opioid death rate in the country. N-Phenethyl-4-piperidinone (NPP) and 4-anilino-N-phenethyl-4-piperidine (ANPP) are the two precursor chemicals under consideration by the CND, the UN body which is empowered to regulate precursor chemicals.  Of the 54 members of the CND, EU member states make up the largest voting bloc.

“We write to request the European Commission’s assistance in addressing a significant aspect of the opioid epidemic that is killing Americans at alarming rates,” the senators wrote in their letter to President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker.

“The unregulated purchase of NPP and ANPP is perfectly consistent with current international law because these chemicals are not currently controlled under international drug treaties... without collective international action it will be difficult to control international manufacture, distribution and sales of NPP and ANPP, and as a result will frustrate efforts to curb manufacturing and trafficking of illicit fentanyl,” the  senators’ letter states. “We would greatly appreciate support from the European Commission for the U.S. request to designate NPP and ANPP as Table I substances when it is considered at the March CND meeting in Vienna.”

The letter was also signed by the following senators: Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Angus King (I-ME), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

In October 2016, Sen. Shaheen and a group of 14 senators sent a letter to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which oversees implementation of the UN drug conventions, requesting the INCB recommend adding NPP and ANPP to the list of Table I substances.

 

Full text of the letter is below.

 

February 17, 2017

 

Jean-Claude Junker

President

European Commission
Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200
1049 Brussels, Belgium

 

President Junker,

 

We write to request the European Commission’s assistance in addressing a significant aspect of the opioid epidemic that is killing Americans at alarming rates. 

 

At the end of last year, the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) issued a questionnaire to the 54 members of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) that sought input on a proposal to designate both N-Phenethyl-4-piperidinone (NPP) and 4-anilino-N-phenethyl-4-piperidine (ANPP), which are precursor chemicals of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, as Table I substances under the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Ultimately, the CND is empowered to decide, upon the recommendation of the INCB, to place precursor chemicals, used for the manufacture of illicit drugs, under international control.

 

As you may be aware, an influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, has contributed to a serious public health crisis in the U.S.  According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s most recent threat assessment, from 2013 to 2014, deaths in the United States caused by synthetic opioid abuse increased by nearly 80 percent.  As a means of illicitly manufacturing fentanyl, traffickers are now seeking its precursor chemicals NPP and ANPP directly.  The Wall Street Journal has reported that one such network purchases these chemicals from Chinese companies, ships them to transnational criminal organizations located in Mexico, and then illicitly manufactures fentanyl along the U.S. border.  Most troublingly, the unregulated purchase of NPP and ANPP is perfectly consistent with current international law because these chemicals are not currently controlled under international drug treaties.  NPP and ANPP are already controlled in the U.S. under the Controlled Substances Act, which imposes certain licensing and approved use requirements.  However, without collective international action it will be difficult to control international manufacture, distribution and sales of NPP and ANPP, and as a result will frustrate efforts to curb manufacturing and trafficking of illicit fentanyl.

 

We believe that the 1988 Convention could be a critical tool in regulating the sale and export of NPP and ANPP.  Given that twelve EU member states are also members of the CND and form the largest voting bloc, we would greatly appreciate support from the European Commission for the U.S. request to designate NPP and ANPP as Table I substances when it is considered at the March CND meeting in Vienna.

 

Thank you for the Commission’s continued support for actions to address issues of mutual concern between the U.S. and European Union.

 

Sincerely,

 

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