New United Nations controls on production, sale, and export of chemicals used to illicitly manufacture the opioid fentanyl will disrupt the global supply chain of traffickers and save lives, a U.S. State Department official told Congress.
“This is a way to shut down the diversion of legal and illicitly produced fentanyl,” said William Brownfield, U.S. assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs. He spoke at a March 21 hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives where lawmakers and experts examined fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that sometimes is mixed into heroin.
With U.S. support, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs on March 16 triggered monitoring and tracking of international trade in the fentanyl precursors 4-anilino-N-phenethylpiperidine and N-phenethyl-4-piperidone. The commission, acting under a UN treaty that regulates narcotics internationally, required monitoring of butyrfentanyl, a potentially deadly fentanyl analog with no recognized medical use.
Fentanyl has contributed to more than 5,000 overdose deaths in North America since 2013, according to research by the UN Office on Drugs & Crime. The drug, blamed for the death of the musician Prince in 2016, is legally used to treat patients with severe pain, including those with postsurgical complications. But it is also cheap to manufacture illicitly and is sold on the streets and internet.