FDA to Step Up Fentanyl Targeting at Postal Facilities

The Washington Post
Published: 8/4/2017 11:31:41 PM
Modified: 8/4/2017 11:31:52 PM

Washington — The Food and Drug Administration is strengthening efforts to detect opioids illegally entering the country through the mail, reflecting heightened concerns about the flood of synthetic fentanyl and similar drugs being shipped from China and elsewhere.

Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in internal remarks to a group of senior managers on Thursday, said he was deploying about three dozen employees to international mail facilities run by the U.S. Postal Service to help detect and analyze 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.

FDA staffers who are stationed at mail facilities — in cities such as Chicago, New York and Los Angeles — typically examine suspicious packages identified by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. The facilities check envelopes and packages arriving from more than 180 countries but often don’t have manifest details that would help in targeting shipments, he said. Adding to the challenge, he said, is that customs officials usually have to sort through large bags and bins by hand.

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