July 26, 2018

Cassidy, Hassan, Kustoff, Kuster Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill Targeting Counterfeit Pill Makers

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), along with U.S. Representatives David Kustoff (R-TN) and Annie Kuster (D-NH), today introduced the Substance Tableting and Encapsulating Enforcement and Registration (STEER) Act (S. 3281 / H.R. 6554), bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid crisis by cracking down on counterfeit pill makers. 

Last year, CNN reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection “is seizing pill presses at a rate 19 times higher than in 2011. That's the year the synthetic drug fentanyl exploded in the US drug market, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. … ‘People have died from ingesting what they think is a legitimate painkiller, (but really) it's a counterfeit pill that contains fentanyl,’” said one Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent.

The Washington Post reported that “Law enforcement officials and medical professionals say that counterfeit opioid pills … have been flooding the illicit drug market and have been sickening — and killing — those who are seeking out powerful prescription drugs amid a worsening national opioid crisis. … One kilogram of illicit fentanyl — far cheaper than heroin or oxycodone — can produce 1 million counterfeit pills, netting $10 million to $20 million in revenue, according to the DEA.”

The bipartisan STEER Act allows the U.S. attorney general to create and maintain a registry of tableting or encapsulating machine owners, track machines imported or exported to or from the United States, and requires the Department of Justice to provide a report to Congress detailing the registration and accounting of any machines used in criminal activity and seized by the DEA.

“We can save lives by getting black-market opioid pills off the streets,” said Dr. Cassidy. “We’ve seen fake pills show up in New Orleans, Shreveport, Natchitoches, and other places around the state. This legislation will help law enforcement identify counterfeit pill makers and shut them down, leading to safer families and healthier communities.”

“As part of our efforts to combat the opioid crisis it is critical that we do everything that we can to prevent the production of counterfeit drugs that help fuel the tide of addiction,” said Senator Hassan. “The bipartisan STEER Act requires anyone who owns tableting or encapsulating machines, which are used to manufacture pills, to register them with the DEA to ensure that the machines are not used for illicit purposes. Members from both parties –  and President Trump’s own opioid commission – agree on the importance of regulating these machines, and I hope that we can move this bill forward with the urgency needed to match the severity of this epidemic.”

“We must remain on the frontlines of combating the opioid epidemic. Pill presses play a huge role in the spread of opioids by providing an easy pathway for these narcotics to infiltrate our communities without detection. The opioid death rate is now at an all-time high, and it is more important than ever to provide solutions to bring this national crisis to an end. The STEER Act proposes real, tangible steps to help authorities keep track of these machines and crack down on the production of illicit drugs,” said Rep. Kustoff. “Many thanks to Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) for working alongside me as an original cosponsor of this important legislation. I also appreciate the support of my colleagues, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), for introducing a companion bill in the U.S. Senate. The opioid crisis transcends party lines, and together we can bring an end to this epidemic once and for all.”

“The spread of synthetic opioids has accelerated an already deadly epidemic,” said Rep. Kuster. “Knockoff opioids often contain dangerous synthetics such as fentanyl or carfentanil, which simply put, will kill unwitting individuals suffering from substance use disorder. It’s critical that we get unregistered pill presses off the street and hold drug dealers and bad actors responsible for pushing these counterfeit drugs.”