Dr. Gupta: “The Biden Administration will continue to make action against the synthetic-drug supply chain a priority because lives are on the line. China should rejoin the U.S. in this effort.”

WALL STREET JOURNAL: China Should Rejoin the U.S. in the Opioid Crisis

[Dr. Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH, MBA, 8/23/22]

As a physician, I have treated individuals poisoned by these drugs in half a dozen states over the past 25 years. While clandestinely produced drugs such as fentanyl hardly ever leave China in their final form, precursor chemicals for these drugs often are imported by criminals from China to Mexico, where lethal synthetic drugs are produced and trafficked to countries across the globe, including the U.S.

The U.S. has significantly increased fentanyl seizures along its Southern border, seizing more than twice as much fentanyl in fiscal 2021 than in fiscal 2020 and four times the amount seized in fiscal 2019, denying billions in profits to criminal organizations that destabilize democracies and fuel crime, corruption, violence and irregular migration. That is why President Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy makes sanctions and other efforts to disrupt and dismantle these international criminal organizations a priority. 

But unless other countries, including China, join the U.S. and act, drugs such as fentanyl and methamphetamine synthesized with precursors made in China will continue to flood the world.

It is unfortunate that Beijing used House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as a pretext to step back from its cooperation in the effort to counter crime and narcotics. China’s public recognition in May 2019 of its involvement in the synthetic opioid trade and its subsequent actions to control fentanyl has resulted in near-zero shipments to the U.S. But since those actions, North America has been flooded with precursor chemicals from China, stifling international efforts.

There are practical and common-sense steps nations can take to disrupt the global trafficking of synthetic opioids and their precursors. They include implementing “know your customer” standards to prevent the diversion of chemicals to illicit drug manufacturing; proper labeling of chemical shipments from host countries through enforcement of World Customs Organization standards; and monitoring for the diversion of uncontrolled chemicals and equipment in international flows.

Beijing has yet to take these steps, and without its engagement, shipments of precursor chemicals to illicit drug producers in Mexico will continue, and traffickers will keep moving these drugs into America. China’s decision to refuse cooperation on this issue will result in more American deaths and more deaths worldwide.

The U.S. will continue to work domestically and with its partners around the world to disrupt criminal organizations, get people the care they need and save lives. The Biden administration is turning partnerships it has renewed and strengthened, such as the Bicentennial Framework with Mexico and the Opioid Action Plan with Canada, into action. And the Biden Administration will continue to make action against the synthetic-drug supply chain a priority because lives are on the line. China should rejoin the U.S. in this effort.

Dr. Gupta is director of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy.

Read the Biden-Harris Administration’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy HERE.

Read the fact sheet on the Strategy HERE.

Read about some of the actions the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to address the overdose and opioid epidemic HERE.


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