Alexander: China’s Designation Today of Fentanyl as a Controlled Substance Will Save Thousands of American Lives

Posted on May 1, 2019

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2019 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said China’s decision today to control all forms of fentanyl “will save thousands of American lives.” Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be 100 times stronger than opioid prescription pills and is the source of the greatest increase in opioid overdoses in our country.

Today, May 1, the Chinese government officially designated fentanyl as a controlled substance.

At the urging of U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, Alexander led a delegation of senior members of Congress to Beijing in October to meet with Chinese leaders, including the Premier, with the primary mission of emphasizing to Chinese senior officials the importance of controlling all forms of fentanyl in China. In December, President Trump and President Xi agreed to designate fentanyl as a controlled substance – meaning that people selling fentanyl illegally to the United States will be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law – which was the action Alexander’s congressional delegation asked for. President Trump called this “a game changer.” 

“When our delegation of senior members of Congress visited China in October, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials told me that one way or the other almost all of the fentanyl that makes its way into the United States starts in China and that the single most important thing that could be done to reduce the flow of fentanyl in the U.S. was to control every form of it in China,” Alexander said. “President Trump deserves great credit for asking the president of China to do this in their meeting in Buenos Aires in December. And the American people should be grateful to President Xi for making that commitment and acting on it so promptly because it will save thousands of American lives.”

Alexander continued, “In addition, Ambassador Branstad deserves great credit for focusing the attention of the Chinese government and the American government on how to deal with the flow of fentanyl into the United States.”

In an April 4 letter, U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, told Alexander that China planned to make all forms of fentanyl a controlled substance effective May 1, 2019. Branstad said, “The commitment and this key development are direct results of your visit to Beijing, during which you highlighted China’s role in the global opioid crisis.”

Alexander was principal sponsor of opioids legislation President Trump signed into law in October that he called “the single largest bill to combat a drug crisis in the history of our country,” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called “landmark” legislation to fight the opioid crisis. That legislation included proposals from five different Senate committees, including the STOP Act to stop illegal drugs, including fentanyl, at the border.