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How drug importation schemes could increase U.S. law enforcement burdens

Allyson Funk   |     March 16, 2017   |   SHARE THIS

In recent weeks, we’ve explored some of the dangers of importation for patients and how medicines purchased online can be fake. But what would importation schemes mean for U.S. law enforcement?

Illegal drug trafficking by global criminal organizations is already a challenge for U.S. law enforcement, and the threat of fake, adulterated and addictive drugs, like counterfeit fentanyl, being imported would only increase if drug importation proposals move forward. Law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, are already overburdened.

Of note, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has already warned about the threat of counterfeit prescription products making their way into the United States illegally via Canada and other countries. This threat continues to grow, particularly with counterfeit opioids, and proposed importation schemes are expected to lead to an even greater quantity of these products entering the United States.

Given the substantial amount of time and resources required of federal, state and local law enforcement to disrupt drug trafficking, opening our borders to drug importation schemes would only heighten the burden and undermine the ability of law enforcement to keep Americans safe. Criminals are waiting to take advantage of an open border system. Here are a few examples of how drug trafficking and importation proposals can impact law enforcement:

  • Disrupting just one designer drug distribution ring that produced synthetic opioids involved law enforcement from 45 states and joint operations in 4 other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Barbados.
  • To stop the unlawful importation of at least 100 kilograms of illegal synthetic compounds (enough to produce about 260,000 retail packets of dried product) from China, five processing facilities were searched in addition to warehouses across all five boroughs of New York City. Over 2 million packets of eight synthetic drugs were seized.
  • Criminals actively look to skirt law enforcement by mislabeling products and the like. The DEA’s July 2016 Case Study warns that “fentanyls are traditionally mixed into or sold as heroin, oftentimes without the customer’s knowledge.” They report, “the current fentanyl crisis is multi-faceted and involves a global supply of fentanyl and related materials. Counterfeit pills containing fentanyls are smuggled into the United States from Mexico and Canada.”

fentanyl+pills+report - graphic v2 - smaller.png

With large-scale importation proposals, we can’t ignore the danger of overwhelming already overburdened law enforcement agencies with increased counterfeit products, including opioids.

Learn more about the dangers of drug importation here: PhRMA.org/Importation

Allyson Funk

Allyson Funk Ally is a former senior director of public affairs at PhRMA focused on advocacy issues for the biopharmaceutical industry. Her expertise includes Medicare, Medicaid, 340B, health reform and more. Prior to PhRMA, her experience includes leading health communications for a large membership organization, supporting public affairs clients and working for the governor of Louisiana.

Topics: Safety, Imported Drugs

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