U.S. Seeks U.N.’s Aid in Banning Chemicals Used to Make Fentanyl

By Paul Gaita 10/24/16

A group of state officials are asking for the United Nations to help regulate the chemicals used to create the deadly synthetic opioid.

U.S. Seeks U.N.’s Aid in Banning Chemicals Used to Make Fentanyl

As the number of overdose deaths from fentanyl use continues to rise throughout the United States, Secretary of State John Kerry and a group of U.S. senators are attempting to enlist the United Nations in the fight to ban two scheduled substances, also known as precursor chemicals, found in the synthetic opioid.

Kerry reportedly issued a letter this month to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, asking that two chemicals, N-Phenethyl-4-piperidinone (NPP) and 4-anilino-N-phenethyl-4-piperidine (ANPP), be added to the list of controlled substances maintained by the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Both chemicals are essential in the manufacture of fentanyl, which claimed almost 50,000 lives in 2013, according to the senators.

In the letter, Kerry wrote, “The United States is currently experiencing an epidemic of overdose deaths linked to opioids including fentanyl-laced heroin … [The U.S.] urgently requests your assistance in expediting this chemical control action.”

A second letter signed by 15 U.S. senators was sent to Werner Sipp, the president of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which advises the UN. 

“As a result of recent international efforts to reduce illegal shipments of fentanyl, many traffickers are now seeking its precursors NPP and ANPP directly,” wrote the senators in the letter. “The Wall Street Journal recently reported that traffickers often purchase these precursor chemicals from companies in China, and ship them to transnational criminal organizations located in Mexico, who then illicitly manufacture fentanyl on the U.S. border.”

The letter concluded, “We believe that the Convention could be a critical tool in regulating the sale and export of NPP and ANPP, thereby saving lives in the United States.”

If the two substances are labeled as controlled substances, the international body would set standards for the production, manufacture and trade of the drugs so they are used only for medical and scientific purposes. Governments would be required to maintain strict standards over their exports, inform recipient countries of any planned shipments of the chemicals, and seize any shipments they deem as suspicious. 

Among the senators who signed the second letter is Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Angus King (I-Maine), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.