June 15,2016

Wyden Asks DEA for Information on Surge of Illegally-Produced Fentanyl

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today sent a letter to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg requesting information similar to the National Heroin Threat Assessment on the reported surge in fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths in certain parts of the country:

“Oregonians and Americans across the country have a right to know the full scope of the growing fentanyl threat that has the potential to further fuel the opioid crisis and cause more pain in already-devastated communities,” Wyden said.

Outbreaks of fentanyl-related deaths have skyrocketed in certain parts of the country in recent years, for example rising 867% in Maine between 2013 and 2015. There have also been reports of outbreaks in Western states in recent months, raising concerns about illicit fentanyl’s spread to other regions of the country. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is used to treat pain for late-stage cancer patients in patch or lozenge form. Illicit fentanyl, on the other hand, typically comes in pill or powder form, and is produced illegally abroad.

The opioid crisis, which is rooted in the prescription of large quantities of powerful opioid drugs, is devastating communities and presenting significant challenges to America’s public health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. Together, those programs are expected to account for a third of spending on substance abuse disorder treatment by 2020.

The full letter can be found here. Last month, Wyden sent a letter to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske requesting information about his agency’s efforts to control the smuggling illicit fentanyl.