FDA chief wants more mail inspectors to stem opioid influx - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

FDA chief wants more mail inspectors to stem opioid influx

Posted: Updated:

By MATTHEW PERRONE
AP Health Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - The head of the Food and Drug Administration wants to more than double the number of packages his agency inspects for illicit drugs, an effort to stem a deadly flow of opioids that increasingly runs through the international mail supply.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Monday he needs more staffers to intercept opioids that are being disguised as other drugs and supplements.

"We're finding an increasing number of opioids coming in through those facilities," said Gottlieb, in an interview with The Associated Press. "In some ways the FDA is the last line of defense."

At a time of massive growth in shipments of packages from China as a result of e-commerce, the FDA, the U.S. Postal service and other government agencies are struggling to intercept shipments of opioids such as fentanyl to U.S. buyers.

International shipments processed by the postal service nearly doubled in just three years, to 275 million in fiscal year 2016 from 150 million in 2013, according to federal records.

Gottlieb says opioid producers often turn synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is cheap and extremely potent, into pills and tablets that resemble other prescription drugs, such as antidepressants. Fentanyl can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin, according to federal authorities.

He wants FDA staff to have the manpower to inspect 100,000 packages per year that have been flagged as suspicious by customs agents, up from its current capacity of roughly 40,000. That would require more than doubling FDA staff, which now consists of 23 staffers dispersed between the nation's nine international mail facilities, according to the agency. That number has tripled since September, when the agency had just seven full-time staff assigned to the posts nationwide.

The work is time-intensive. Shipments must be tested in a lab and put through a legal review before they can be destroyed.

At the facility at New York's Kennedy Airport, the FDA's five inspectors open and process about 75 packages per day, according to Gottlieb.

Gottlieb visited the New York hub Monday with members of Congress and their staff. He's hoping lawmakers will approve increased spending for his agency.

"The reason why we had members of Congress here today is because we're looking at trying to step up our footprint in those facilities even more," Gottlieb said.

Members of Congress have been debating new measures aimed at stemming the flow of opioids in the mail.

Earlier this year, Senate investigators said incomplete tracking data used by the U.S. postal service allows Chinese sellers to ship fentanyl to U.S. buyers. Legislation introduced in Congress would require the postal service to collect tracking data for all shipments to the U.S., but it's not clear that foreign mail authorities would comply.

The opioid epidemic was initially driven by prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. But prescribing of those drugs has been falling since 2011 due to policies by government, medical and law enforcement officials designed to reverse years of overprescribing.

The majority of opioid deaths now involve illegal drugs, especially the ultra-potent fentanyl. Deaths tied to fentanyl and related drugs doubled in 2016, to more than 19,000, dragging down Americans' life expectancy for the second year in a row.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • More From wfmj.comHot ClicksMore>>

  • Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

    Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

    Thursday, September 20 2018 8:23 PM EDT2018-09-21 00:23:13 GMT
    (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed). Famous Roberts poses for a portrait as an SUV plows through floodwaters on NC 41 outside Trenton, N.C., on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. Roberts chose to ride out Hurricane Florence in Trenton, partly because the forecast strength ...(AP Photo/Allen G. Breed). Famous Roberts poses for a portrait as an SUV plows through floodwaters on NC 41 outside Trenton, N.C., on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. Roberts chose to ride out Hurricane Florence in Trenton, partly because the forecast strength ...
    Several meteorologists and disaster experts say Florence highlights a problem with the way hurricane danger is rated.More >>
    Several meteorologists and disaster experts say Florence highlights a problem with the way hurricane danger is rated.More >>
  • Tesla says it has turned over documents to feds

    Tesla says it has turned over documents to feds

    Thursday, September 20 2018 7:03 PM EDT2018-09-20 23:03:57 GMT
    Shares of electric car maker Tesla Inc. fell more than 5 percent Tuesday after a report that it's under criminal investigation over statements about taking the company private.More >>
    Shares of electric car maker Tesla Inc. fell more than 5 percent Tuesday after a report that it's under criminal investigation over statements about taking the company private.More >>
  • SpaceX's 1st traveler is moonstruck Japanese fashion tycoon

    SpaceX's 1st traveler is moonstruck Japanese fashion tycoon

    Thursday, September 20 2018 3:13 PM EDT2018-09-20 19:13:38 GMT
    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson). SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk, left, shakes hands with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, right, after announcing him as the first private passenger on a trip around the moon, Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, in Hawtho...(AP Photo/Chris Carlson). SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk, left, shakes hands with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, right, after announcing him as the first private passenger on a trip around the moon, Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, in Hawtho...
    Japanese billionaire due to blast off on SpaceX mission a fashion tycoon, art collector.More >>
    Japanese billionaire due to blast off on SpaceX mission a fashion tycoon, art collector.More >>
  • More NewsMore>>

  • Improved opioid overdose drug may be on horizon

    Improved opioid overdose drug may be on horizon

    Thursday, September 20 2018 7:52 PM EDT2018-09-20 23:52:53 GMT

    The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that they will be working with Opiate Pharmaceuticals of Santa Monica, California to development potentially improved form of an opioid overdose drug. According to a press release they are working to make this drug fast-acting, long-lasting, and intranasal. Rick Bright, Ph.D., Director of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary ...

    More >>

    The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that they will be working with Opiate Pharmaceuticals of Santa Monica, California to development potentially improved form of an opioid overdose drug. According to a press release they are working to make this drug fast-acting, long-lasting, and intranasal. Rick Bright, Ph.D., Director of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary ...

    More >>
  • T-shirts commemorate Campbell, Struthers football rivalry coming to a close

    T-shirts commemorate Campbell, Struthers football rivalry coming to a close

    Thursday, September 20 2018 7:08 PM EDT2018-09-20 23:08:49 GMT

    The longstanding community rivalry between Campbell and Struthers football is coming to an end.  The Red Devils and Wildcats are set to face off on the gridiron for the last time on Friday, October 5.  In honor of their final meeting, the two communities have come together and are selling commemorative T-Shirts designed by Soup City Designs.  The shirts are receiving a lot of interest and not just from people living in the Valley.  "We've been getting...

    More >>

    The longstanding community rivalry between Campbell and Struthers football is coming to an end.  The Red Devils and Wildcats are set to face off on the gridiron for the last time on Friday, October 5.  In honor of their final meeting, the two communities have come together and are selling commemorative T-Shirts designed by Soup City Designs.  The shirts are receiving a lot of interest and not just from people living in the Valley.  "We've been getting...

    More >>
  • Youngstown man indicted on kidnapping charge

    Youngstown man indicted on kidnapping charge

    Thursday, September 20 2018 6:46 PM EDT2018-09-20 22:46:55 GMT
    Mel'Quan PattonMel'Quan Patton
    Mel'Quan PattonMel'Quan Patton
    A Youngstown man accused of attempting to kidnap a 16-year-old girl in June was indicted on Thursday, September 20. 26-year-old Mel'Quan Patton was indicted on the charge of Attempted Abduction. U.S. Marshals previously took Patton into custody on Glenwood Avenue in Boardman on Thursday, July 19. Patton was first wanted on an offense of kidnapping with the purpose to engage in sexual activity with a minor. According to police, a woman reported in June that Patton had sex with her ...More >>
    A Youngstown man accused of attempting to kidnap a 16-year-old girl in June was indicted on Thursday, September 20. 26-year-old Mel'Quan Patton was indicted on the charge of Attempted Abduction. U.S. Marshals previously took Patton into custody on Glenwood Avenue in Boardman on Thursday, July 19. Patton was first wanted on an offense of kidnapping with the purpose to engage in sexual activity with a minor. According to police, a woman reported in June that Patton had sex with her ...More >>
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 WFMJ. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms