Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, is urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to utilize all of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) available tools to address the rapidly expanding threat of counterfeit pills laced with deadly drugs. Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have spread counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, fentanyl-related substances and methamphetamine throughout the U.S. at unprecedented levels – with the DEA seizing more than 20 million counterfeit pills in 2021. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, 87 percent of overdose deaths in Iowa last year were fentanyl-related.
“Beyond these statistics, there is a call for help from families across America to act. I have met with heartbroken mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers and heard their messages about spreading awareness on the dangers posed by fake pills laced with deadly drugs,” Grassley wrote. “We need to step up and act on behalf of these grieving families.”
Grassley then urges DOJ to “think outside of the box,” including by utilizing the authority granted to the Consumer Protection Branch (CPB).
“The CPB works to ensure consumers’ health and safety by enforcing laws that protect consumers from dangerous or misleading products. CPB is responsible for criminal and civil actions under statutes administered by several agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Such statutory authority allows the CPB to investigate and prosecute the manufacturers and distributors of the components of illegal drugs,” Grassley continued.
Grassley concludes by asking the attorney general how he is leveraging CPB to address the spread of counterfeit pills laced with illicit drugs. Grassley also asks if there are any actions Congress should take to empower the CPB in its fight against the onslaught of these deadly pills.
Full text of the letter is available HERE.
Grassley has been leading the charge to tackle counterfeit pill proliferation. In May, Grassley introduced a bipartisan and bicameral proposal, the Stop Pills That Kill Act, which seeks to ensure that existing penalties for possessing paraphernalia used to manufacture methamphetamine would also apply to possessing paraphernalia used to make counterfeit pills that contain methamphetamine, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues. Grassley published a Q&A on this legislation, which is available here.
Grassley also helped lead a resolution designating May 10, 2022 as National Fentanyl Awareness Day to increase public awareness of deadly counterfeit fentanyl pills. Last month, during a hearing on the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) 2022 Drug Control Strategy, Grassley raised concerns that the strategy largely ignores the proliferation of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl and meth.