On February 23, 2017, leaders of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, in a letter to the Office of Natural Drug Control Policy (“ONDCP”), urged ONDCP to address how it and other federal agencies intend to confront the immediate public health threat posed by illicit fentanyl. The Committee correspondence also directed ONDCP to respond to specific questions concerning the source of illicit fentanyl trafficking, statistics related to the overdose deaths associated with counterfeit and/or diverted drugs containing fentanyl, the “hot spot” locations for illicit fentanyl use and trafficking in the United States, and federal and state agency efforts to address the crisis. On March 29, 2017, ONDCP responded to the Committee’s concerns and questions.
Extensive research performed by United States law enforcement suggests that illicit fentanyl is entering the United States through three primary routes: (1) directly from China; (2) through well-established drug routes and methods via the Southwest border from Mexico; and (3) through the Northern border from Canada, where illicit fentanyl is generally milled and pressed into counterfeit opioid pills. In light of these multiple trafficking routes, ONDCP directly acknowledged the immediate public health threat posed by illicit fentanyl and expressed interest in continuing to work with the Committee to address the crisis.
In addition to providing general statistics on illicit fentanyl trafficking and overdose deaths across the United States, ONDCP briefly outlined for the Committee the state and federal agencies actively working to combat the illicit fentanyl threat. Three federal agencies have established strategic plans to tackle the crisis, which include ONDCP, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. Numerous federal and state law enforcement agencies are also working in collaboration to create working groups to address the threat, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation Fentanyl Working Group and the Special Operations Division-Heroin/Fentanyl Task Force, among others.