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DOJ goes after Chinese companies and their employees for fentanyl production and distribution

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In what is hopefully an effective step towards fighting the fentanyl crisis, the Justice Department unsealed eight indictments in Florida on Tuesday that charge China-based companies and their employees with crimes relating to the production and distribution of fentanyl, methamphetamine and synthetic opioids. Specifically, “the indictments charge China-based chemical manufacturing companies and nationals of the People’s Republic of China for trafficking fentanyl precursor chemicals into the United States” reports the Center Square.

“We know that the global fentanyl supply chain, which ends with the deaths of Americans, often starts with chemical companies in China,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “The United States government is focused on breaking apart every link in that chain, getting fentanyl out of our communities, and bringing those who put it there to justice.”

U.S. officials reported 107,735 overdose deaths between August 2021 and August 2022 from drug poisonings, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 66% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

The Drug Enforcement Administration-led investigations used the agency’s authority to specially schedule protonitazene and metonitazene as Schedule I controlled substances. Swiss chemical company CIBA Aktiengesellschaft developed protonitazene, metonitazene and other synthetic substances of the benzimidazole structural class in the 1950s. They have since emerged as drugs of abuse, according to the DEA.

Protonitazene and metonitazene are synthetic opioids that were listed as Schedule I controlled substances in April 2022. Traffickers typically mix protonitazene and metonitazene with other opioids, such as fentanyl, to create powerful cocktails of opioids, according to the DEA.

A study this summer found that nitazenes were being detected in overdose cases. Why nitazenes are showing up in the illicit drug supply is unclear, but researchers said it may be the result of changing regulations.

“The exact motivation to produce nitazenes and brorphine are unclear,” according to the study. “The increased regulation of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues throughout the last decade may have led to a change in the chemical precursors required for clandestine laboratory production that were not yet regulated. This change in chemical precursors may have led to these newer and more potent opioids.”

Continue reading: Center Square

 

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Healthcare

College to begin offering abortion pill on campus

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Barnard College, a partner campus of Columbia University, will be rolling out a plan in May that involves supplying students with abortion pills, the Columbia Spectator reported. The plan to provide the abortion service in the form of mifepristone abortion pills to students was initially announced in the fall of 2022 after the overturning of Roe. V Wade, according to the Spectator. However, the rollout’s delay has been partially attributed to an August 2023 grant the college received, which allowed Barnard to join a large network of primary care providers that will help steer the college through the procedures.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reports Barnard’s Primary Care Health Service will host student focus groups in upcoming weeks to find out student perspectives about the service and to identify new ways to support students considering abortion. “We wanted to make sure that we’re addressing this from every angle that will be supportive of students,” Sarah Ann Anderson-Burnett, director of Medical Services and Quality Improvement of Barnard, told the Spectator. Anderson-Burnett also said it has expanded the availability of its abortion providers to after-hours and year-round.

Barnard has six medical professionals, including two physicians and four nurse practitioners, who are capable of performing the procedure, Mariana Catallozzi, vice president for Health and Wellness and chief health officer of Barnard, told the Spectator. The school also launched a partnership with AccessNurse, a medical call center that will assist with patient concerns related to abortions.

“The training doesn’t end with the clinicians,” Anderson-Burnett told the Spectator. “Clinicians are trained on the actual provision, but there’s also an overall training that will be provided to key partners and stakeholders across the campus because we want every step, every touchpoint, to be supportive and to be trauma-informed and to be patient-valued and centered but also respect confidentiality and privacy.”

The University of Massachusetts Amherst spent more than $650,000 to stock abortion pills in March 2023 at the request of Democratic Maryland Gov. Maura Healey. Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill in May 2023 forcing college in the state to stock abortion pills on campus.

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