Source: Fountain Hills Coalition

This letter to the editor by Douglas Herbert was published in The Fountain Hills Times on May 15, 2019. Herbert is a board member at the Fountain Hills Coalition; he previously worked for 26 years for the Drug Enforcement Agency, retiring as DEA’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Arizona.

Counterfeit drugs

At the May 9 meeting of the Fountain Hills Substance Abuse Coalition, Director Shelly Mowrey presented Fountain Hills’ “Community Views Survey” results.

Prescription drug abuse led the field as the number one concern in Fountain Hills. Recently, President Trump announced dispensed opioid prescriptions are down 17 percent from last year. One would expect the reduction in prescriptions to correspond with a reduction in opioid addiction cases. To the contrary, we are experiencing record numbers of opioid overdoses.

For years, DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squads focused on the pharmaceutical industry over the opioid epidemic. Criminal, civil and administrative sanctions reigned in the entire industry. Arizona enacted stricter controls; limiting prescription opioids for first time patients, mandatory participation in prescription monitoring programs and educating the medical industry on opioid addiction.

Have government efforts caused an unintended consequence creating a void in available “legal” pain medication; thus, allowing drug cartels to fill the void? According to the CDC, U.S. prescription drug overdoses reached a record 72,000 deaths in 2018. What is disturbing is that over half the opioid overdose deaths were from fentanyl, a synthetic heroin manufactured in China.

Fentanyl contained in foreign counterfeit prescriptions, sourced in China and smuggled across the southwest border by Mexican drug cartels, supplies millions addicted to prescription pain medications. Despite this epidemic; there are proposals to “legally” allow foreign prescription medications to compete with the U.S. pharmaceutical industry.
The FDA has strict oversight and controls on our pharmaceutical industry. From cradle-to-grave, the FDA ensures American consumers receive safe, uncontaminated pharmaceutical medications. These FDA assurances don’t apply to foreign pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical drugs are the most counterfeited item in the world; an estimated $200 billion industry. Based on our counterfeit opioid drug crises, we should think long and hard before considering such proposals.