Q&A: Stop pills that kill

Q: Why did you introduce the Stop Pills that Kill Act?

 A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that nearly 108,000 Americans died last year from drug overdose deaths. Fentanyl overdoses have become the number one cause of death among U.S. adults ages 18-45. And, according to the National Institutes of Health, overdose deaths from methamphetamine have tripled in recent years. Earlier this year, an Iowa family shared the story of their tragic loss with my office and helped inform my work at the policymaking table. Their teenage son died from an illicit counterfeit pill and his family wants to help raise awareness in their community to prevent this from happening to others. Drug traffickers are peddling fake pills laced with methamphetamine, fentanyl or fentanyl analogues that are increasingly reaching teenagers online through social media. Counterfeit pills can be shipped in the mail or delivered in person by a drug dealer. Seizures of laced pills have skyrocketed, and they’ve been detected in every state. To combat this issue, I introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill to help put the brakes on the recent surge in counterfeit prescription pills. The Stop Pills That Kill Act requires the DEA to create a comprehensive plan to tackle the rise of counterfeit pills and closes a sentencing loophole for illicit pill production. It also implements new penalties for counterfeit pill production of these substances. Drug traffickers are targeting teens and young adults. Beefing up criminal penalties to help deter counterfeit pill pushers will help save lives.

 Q: How does your leadership on the Senate Drug Caucus help Iowans?

 A: As co-chair of this bipartisan drug caucus, I work to bring all ideas to the table to combat illicit drug use and the crime that goes with it. From sharpening anti-money laundering tools, to reducing demand, bolstering law enforcement, strengthening anti-drug coalitions in local communities, targeting Mexican drug cartels and shutting down Chinese supply chains, the caucus digs into the details to ensure federal law is working to solve problems. I also gather input from health care professionals, law enforcement officials and community leaders to help keep illicit drug trafficking from stealing the lives of loved ones and bringing crime to our streets. Last October, I conducted a field hearing in Cedar Rapids to bring people together at the local level. This year, I’ve focused my efforts to prevent the Biden administration from taking away a proven tool to help law enforcement keep deadly counterfeit drugs off the streets. I’m pushing to extend the authority designating fentanyl-related substances as a Schedule 1 drug. In 2018, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) placed fentanyl analogues in Schedule 1. A year later, China banned fentanyl-related compounds. Keeping analogues in Schedule 1 helps law enforcement curb the global supply chain of fentanyl-class chemicals and their flow into the United States. With the surge in overdose deaths, now is not the time to take America’s foot off the brakes. Too many families have suffered from lethal drugs and synthetic substances pouring across our border, from methamphetamine, fentanyl and more recently the spread of counterfeit pills. Lifting the restriction would accelerate the deadly rise in overdose deaths. We’ve got our work cut out for us and I’m as committed as ever to cracking down on the supply and stopping addiction to help keep Iowa families healthy and our communities safe.

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