United States politicians should stop misleading the public by claiming that fentanyl, a drug that has caused scores of overdose deaths in the U.S., is mainly being sourced from China, a senior Chinese narcotics control official said on Tuesday.
"I've noticed that some U.S. politicians have blamed China for fentanyl abuse in the U.S.. It's seriously inconsistent with the actual situation," Liu Yuejin, deputy director of the National Narcotics Control Commission, said at a news conference in Beijing.
Blaming China for the influx of fentanyl into the U.S. based on the limited number of postal packages seized by U.S. authorities is lacking in evidence, Liu said.
U.S. Customs and Border Control said it handled 229 trafficking cases involving 536.8 kilograms of fentanyl-related substances between October 2018 and March 2019. Among them, only 17 cases came from China with 5.87 kg seized, Liu said.
"U.S. politicians should conduct fact checks before jumping to conclusions instead of making things up while sitting at home," he said.
Also, there is no evidence from the Chinese, Mexican and U.S. law enforcement authorities to support the claim that some Chinese traffickers use Mexico as a transit stop before smuggling fentanyl into the U.S., Liu said.
On Aug 24, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said on social media platforms that "China continues to pour poison into our communities" following a report from Mexican media saying 23,000 kg of fentanyl were seized at a seaport in Mexico.
The fact is that the report is inaccurate and the goods seized were 920 bags of calcium chloride-widely used in synthesizing industrial chemicals. The report was soon removed from the media outlet's website. "Until today, the ONDCP has done nothing to its social media post, which is very misleading," he added.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain-typically advanced cancer pain. However, an increasing number of overdose deaths in the U.S. have been linked to illegally made fentanyl. It is sold through illegal channels for its heroin-like effects.
China strictly controls fentanyl-related substances and launched a new wave of measures to tackle the issue in May. So far 25 fentanyl analogues have been put on China's list of controlled substances, four more than the U.S., said the National Narcotics Control Commission.
The commission has also launched inspections of chemical and biochemical industrial parks to look for possible illicit production of fentanyl-related substances, Liu said. Law enforcement officials have also stepped up efforts to prevent people from trading fentanyl-related substances online, he said.
In addition, the Ministry of Public Security has established six laboratories across the country to better identify fentanyl-related substances.
"Besides analyzing suspicious materials, the laboratories can also identify new forms of illicit fentanyl and alert customs and border control authorities," said Yu Haibing, a narcotics control official with the commission.