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Senate Poised to Pass Bill to Stop Flow of Opioids Through the Mail

Category: Political News,Politics

Federal authorities could waive the requirements for countries that do not have the capacity to provide electronic information if they are found to pose a low risk to the United States and account for a small volume of mail shipments. But, lawmakers said, China does have the capacity to provide the required data electronically.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last month that drug overdoses killed about 72,000 Americans in 2017, a record high. A major factor, officials said, was a continued sharp increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, is an author of the bill to curb opioid imports. It would, she said, “close loopholes in our postal system that allow foreign manufacturers to flood our markets with unsafe drugs.”

William Siemer, acting deputy inspector general of the Postal Service, told Congress this year that the agency receives limited electronic data about many parcels, and said that “the information it does receive is often incomplete or inaccurate.” Unlike private shippers, he said, the Postal Service must generally “obtain a warrant to inspect the contents of suspect parcels.”

Another provision of the Senate bill makes clear that the Food and Drug Administration can require additional safety measures for the packaging of prescription opioids. The agency could, for example, stipulate that such drugs must be sealed in plastic blister packs providing single doses or a supply limited to three days or a week.

The bill also authorizes Medicaid to pay for care provided at special treatment centers for babies who have been exposed to opioids in the womb. The babies may have tremors, seizures, breathing problems or other signs of neonatal abstinence syndrome, caused by withdrawal from the drugs.

In addition, the bill accelerates research to develop nonaddictive painkillers and other alternatives to opioids. The National Institutes of Health has devised an elaborate plan for such research.

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