U.S., China Aim to Stem Flow of Fentanyl Driving U.S. Epidemic

The U.S. and China announced a partnership to combat the flow of the powerful opioid fentanyl to the U.S., a move hailed by the White House as a step toward protecting Americans from “dangerous and increasingly lethal narcotics.”

The agreement builds on China’s progress over the past year in controlling more than 100 risky substances. Yet it acknowledges that the majority of fentanyl and related drugs originate in China, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Saturday.

Fentanyl compounds an already serious heroin epidemic in the U.S., particularly because the painkiller, often prescribed for cancer treatment, is more potent than morphine or heroin, said Price. He cited recent overdoses and deaths in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia caused by heroin that was laced with fentanyl and related substances.

On a typical day, more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed in the U.S., with some 3,900 people initiating non-medical use of the substances, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. An average of 78 people die from an opioid-related overdose in the U.S. each day, according to HHS estimates dating to June.

The musician Prince died in April of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, according to medical examiner’s report on his death released in June. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on Aug. 21 that pills marked as hydrocodone, a semi-synthetic opioid pain-reliever, and containing fentanyl were found in the star’s house after his death.

The White House statement, issued from the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting in Hangzhou, China, also cites President Barack Obama’s budget request for $1.1 billion for treatment of Americans with substance use disorders and for overdose prevention.

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