House Oversight panel to investigate administration’s efforts to curb flow of fentanyl into U.S.

Jul 9, 2019
Press Release
CDC says more than half of all opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017 involved synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl; DeGette, others demand info on steps agencies are taking to stop the deadly drug coming from China

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations panel, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), announced today that her subcommittee will hold a hearing next week on the Trump administration’s efforts to curb the increasing threat posed by synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, which have been linked to more than half of the nation’s opioid-related deaths.

The hearing comes just weeks after DeGette and others sent a series of letters to top Trump administration officials demanding answers on their agencies’ efforts to curb the illicit flow of fentanyl into the United States.

“As overdose deaths involving fentanyl continue to rise, we remain concerned about the impact of this epidemic on the public health,” DeGette and others wrote to the heads of six major federal agencies. “We are committed to identifying further solutions to stop the flow of deadly illicit fentanyl into our communities.”

According to data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 47,000 drug overdose deaths involving opioids in 2017. More than half of those deaths, 28,000, according to the agency, involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl – a 47 percent increase from the year before.

The increasing rate of overdose deaths caused by fentanyl is raising concerns among state health officials across the country, including in DeGette’s home state of Colorado, where 974 people reportedly died of a drug overdose last year.

While the overall number of overdose deaths reported in Colorado last year was down slightly from the year before, data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed that the number of deaths linked to fentanyl has more than doubled in recent years – from 49 in 2016 to 102 last year.

The CDC has called the recent surge in synthetic-opioid related deaths the “third wave” of the national opioid epidemic.

In an effort to prevent more Americans from accessing the deadly drug, Congress approved legislation that was signed into law last year to give the Food and Drug Administration new tools to intercept illicit drugs coming into the country through international mail facilities, including shipments of fentanyl coming from China.

As head of the subcommittee that directly oversees the FDA, DeGette and a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent letters on Jun. 26 to the heads of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the U.S. Postal Service demanding more information on the administration’s efforts to stop the deadly drug from entering the U.S.

The hearing will take place on Tuesday, July 16, at 10:00 a.m. EDT in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

More information, including the full list of witnesses who will be testifying, will be sent as soon as it’s available.

A link to view the hearing live will also be made available before it begins.