INCB actions, tools addressing global synthetic opioids crisis


Photos: INCB

VIENNA, 3 December 2018 - National experts and international partners gathered at the UNODC-WHO-INCB Intergovernmental expert group on the international challenge posed by the non-medical use of synthetic opioids. The two-day meeting examined strategies to reduce the supply of synthetic opioids for non-medical use and address the public health aspects of synthetic opioids under the United Nations opioids strategy.

INCB President Dr. Viroj Sumyai, in his video address to participants, stated that, "the trafficking in dangerous substances must be countered by practical, operational approaches that bring together Governments, international organizations, and private-sector partners to rapidly interdict their manufacture, sales and distribution." Since 2017, INCB actions, including its newest initiative-the global OPIOIDS Project-dedicated to addressing the problem have been rapidly providing tools to address the synthetic opioids crisis.


Panel experts repeatedly highlighted challenges posed by online vendors' misuse of legitimate e-commerce and social media platforms to offer fentanyls, trafficked in express parcels shipped around the world. Mr. Rossen Popov, Deputy Secretary of the Board, spoke about the Board's practical approach in partnering with governments and international organizations. He also highlighted areas of priority action, such as addressing the use of precursors and equipment in illicit manufacture, interdiction of distribution, sharing of information, and especially public-private partnerships with relevant industries to rapidly reduce availability of dangerous substances, pointing to most recent efforts of governments with some of the largest internet trading platforms voluntarily removing fentanyl vendors from their marketplaces. To support that effort, INCB disseminated a target list of 93 abused fentanyls with no known legitimate uses, requesting governments and their private sectors to refrain from their manufacture and distribution.

Mr. Stefano Berterame, Chief of the Narcotics Control and Estimates Section of INCB, highlighted recent estimates of significant over and under consumption of legitimate synthetic opioids globally, in what has been termed by the Board as the "global pain divide." World Health Organization experts noted that in many parts of the world legitimate pain relievers remain largely unavailable. These, and other factors, may in turn force people to illicit channels of substandard, falsified or otherwise illicitly manufactured drugs.

The Board's global OPIOIDS Project, Project Ion and Project PRISM are helping Governments to rapidly respond to changing trafficking patterns involving synthetic opioids by quickly sharing specific intelligence on their sources and modus operandi, convening task forces and specialized intelligence operations, as well as providing information and alerts to Governments and private-sector partners as part of efforts to interdict sales and distribution of these substances.


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