Bill targets counterfeit pill makers

NASHUA – U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, both D-N.H., joined Republican colleagues on Thursday to introduce the Substance Tableting and Encapsulating Enforcement and Registration Act.

Leaders said the legislation is yet another step in the ongoing battle against opioid abuse. The bipartisan legislation would allow 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 nation, 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 Drug Enforcement Administration.

“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,” Hassan said. “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.”

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid with a potency up to 50 times that of heroin. Carfentanil, meanwhile, is 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

“The spread of synthetic opioids has accelerated an already deadly epidemic,” Kuster said. “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.”

Joining the New Hampshire Democrats to introduce the legislation were U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and U.S. Rep. David Kustoff, R-Tenn.

“We can save lives by getting black-market opioid pills off the streets,” Cassidy said. “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.”

“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,” Kustoff added.

“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.”