September 2021

Federal, International Shipping Regulation Changes Paramount as Opioid Epidemic Intensifies

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy

Over the past year, the opioid epidemic has prompted congressional attention. In an article for The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), government and regulatory affairs partner Libby Baney and Faegre Drinker Consulting manager Jillian Brady outline key federal and international shipping regulation changes given that the majority of synthetic opioids enter the U.S. from overseas through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

The authors describe how illegal drug sellers exploit vulnerabilities in the USPS and discuss shipping system loopholes that allow illicit drugs to enter the U.S. For example, the USPS does not require advance electronic data (AED), its package location processes are inefficient and ineffective, and it receives a much higher volume of mail compared to commercial entities, or express consignment operators (ECOs).

Next, the authors explain the details of the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which Congress passed in 2018. They also address where the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) regulations may fall short, such as exempting certain shipments from AED requirements and the exemption of countries from AED requirements without limitations on the number of countries and the length of the exemption.

In conclusion, now that the public comment period has concluded, the authors emphasize that any revisions CBP makes to its regulations will dictate how effective U.S. law enforcement will be at stemming the flood of synthetic opioids coming into the U.S. via the USPS. For instance, the requirements promulgated by the STOP Act, if implemented in full, would create a major roadblock for criminals who have far too long exploited weaknesses in the USPS. Further, requiring AED from foreign posts is a critical tool that would allow CBP to better screen international mail for illicit drugs.

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