Biden nixes life-saving drug reform made by Trump administration that boosted opioid addiction treatment

WASHINGTON, D.C.- In an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal, two doctors wrote about how President Joe Biden recently reversed a life-saving drug reform made by the former Trump administration.

Now, a bi-partisan group of legislators is urging Biden to revive Trump’s life-saving reform. On January 27th, Biden reversed the January 14th change by the Trump administration to allow nearly all physicians to prescribe buprenorphine. 

Dr. Brian Barnett, a psychiatrist and Dr. Jeremy Weleff, a resident in psychiatry in Ohio, described the drug buprenorphine as “one of the most effective treatments for opioid addiction.”

They also wrote that the medical community was astonished when they heard about the reversal. Dr. Barnett and Dr. Weleff added:

“Previously, only doctors who had completed an eight-hour training course and obtained a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration could prescribe buprenorphine. Only 7% of physicians are certified to prescribe the drug and more than half of rural counties lacked a single prescriber as of 2018.”

They continued:

“President Biden had promised during the campaign to abolish the licensing requirement, known as the ‘X-waiver,’ which President Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services moved to nix a week before he left office.”

Dr. Barnett and Dr. Weleff wrote:

“After France eliminated a similar regulation, the number of patients receiving buprenorphine increased tenfold, and opioid overdose deaths dropped by 80% in four years.”

The Biden administration argued that Trump’s changes had legal problems, including a failure to receive clearance from the White House budget office.

Dr. Barnett and Dr. Weleff further wrote:

“We hope this about-face wasn’t political, but if the only issue is procedural, why not let the change stand until Congress passes legislation to regularize it?

There is every reason to do so: Nearly 130 Americans die of opioid overdoses on an average day and a bipartisan bill has already been proposed, with plans for reintroduction.”

Now, in a rare show of bipartisanship, a group of lawmakers is urging Biden to let more doctors prescribe buprenorphine. On Tuesday, February 9th, the Washington Post reported:

“Lawmakers, led by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who are joined by four members in the House, are introducing legislation that would eliminate the rules and urging the president to support the bill.”

In a letter obtained by the Washington Post, lawmakers are calling on the president to deliver on the promise he made when campaigning.

The lawmakers wrote:

“We respectfully request that you prioritize the elimination of the X-waiver in order to deliver on your promise to expand access to medication-assisted treatment.”

The Post learned from three administration officials, who reportedly spoke on the condition of anonymity, that the Biden administration is reviewing options to eliminate the waiver. Dr. Barnett and Dr. Weleff wrote in the Wall Street Journal op-ed:

“Perhaps the Biden administration will eliminate the X-waiver in its own manner.

But, how can it justify further delay with overdose deaths increasing amid the pandemic? If the administration lacks the courage to act now, we implore Congress to do so.

It should use the next COVID-19 relief package as an opportunity to end the X-waiver’s deadly reign.”

The X-waiver originates from U.S. regulators’ concerns about using the opioid, buprenorphine, to treat opioid addiction. Dr. Barnett and Dr. Weleff noted that a similar requirement does not encumber doctors prescribing opioids to treat pain.

The doctors acknowledged that treating opioid addiction with an opioid might invite criticism. However, they added:

“It makes sense because buprenorphine’s chemical structure allows it to reduce cravings for other opioids like heroin while decreasing the risk of overdose should patients relapse on them.”

They added:

“Moreover, buprenorphine does not trigger the intense euphoria of other opioids. It is usually combined with naloxone, a medication that blocks buprenorphine’s effects if injected, making misuse rare.”

The Post reiterated:

“Medical groups have hailed buprenorphine as a lifesaving treatment, particularly as the opioid crisis has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention reported that more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States during the 12-month period ending in May 2020, the highest 12-month death count on record.”

The number of overdoses dropped during the pre-coronavirus pandemic Trump-era. Some doctors credited some of Trump’s policies to combat the opioid crisis, namely “strict border control” for the drop in lethal overdoses linked to the drug.

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China working with Mexican drug cartels, fueling fentanyl crisis in the U.S.

February 1st, 2021 

The editorial content in this article is brought to you by a former Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.

MEXICO- Let’s make this perfectly clear. China is not our friend. Unfortunately, Joe Biden, in the pocket of the Chinese doesn’t realize this. Or perhaps he simply does not care.

Fox News has uncovered some disturbing information about China’s infiltration into the Mexican drug wars. That infiltration is directly leading to the deaths of a large number of Americans. If you are expecting anything out of the Biden administration, it is best perhaps not to hold your breath. 

Fox reported that according to intelligence and security professionals based in Mexico, much of the deaths are attributed to Chinese drug lords, in this case carried out by the “Los Zheng” wing, which has been identified as “having the largest presence in Mexico for the trafficking of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

Fox obtained exclusive findings from Fortress Risk Management, a security firm which shows the Zhengs utilize otherwise legitimate-appearing shell companies which offer services such as veterinary services, clothing sales, clinical labs and computer maintenance in Mexico. The cartel uses various ports within Mexico in order to commercialize their products in Mexico.  

According to Fortress co-founder and chief operating officer Lee Oughton, he says that officials within Mexico, in particular customs authorities, as well as Mexican cartels such as Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generacion, are complicit in the operation.

“Once in the country, the drug is transported by air and land to the United States through the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Sinaloa and Sonora,’ Oughton said.

Last June, officials with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated four individuals and one entity pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act), according to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The release identified four individuals: Songyan Ji, Longbao Zhang, Guifeng Cheng, and Guangfu Zheng, all located in China. In addition, OFAC also designated Global United Biotechnology Inc., for being owned or controlled by the Zheng DTO, according to the release. Treasury also said that OFAC had previously identified Fujing Zheng and Zheng DTO as “significant foreign narcotics traffickers pursuant to the Kingpin Act in August 2019.”

Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich said in the release: “Fentanyl and other drugs have caused overwhelming devastation to communities across America. The United States is committed to holding drug traffickers and those who facilitate their operations accountable for the suffering they impose upon American families.”

Ji, Zhang, Cheng and Zheng were designated by OFAC, according to Treasury, with facilitating payments for the purchase of fentanyl analogues or other controlled substances, including synthetic cannabinoids and cathinone’s, for Zheng DTO, controlled by Fujing Zheng.

The Zheng DTO laundered drug proceeds by using digital currency such as bitcoin, and transmitted drug proceeds into and out of bank accounts in China and Hong Kong.

Fujing Zheng, 37, who operated under the alias Gordon Jin, and his father Guanghua Zheng, 64, both who live in Shanghai were indicted by the U.S. in 2018 for “conspiracy to manufacture and distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to import controlled substances into the United States, operating a continued criminal enterprise, money laundering, and other crimes.”

Fox notes that despite the recent arrests, the Zheng criminal operation is still in working on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border.

According to Ed Calderon, a former Mexican law enforcement officer who is also a narcotics subject matter expert, the Zheng operations still continue today, and noted there are numerous primary, secondary and backup facilitators who can make up for any arrests of personnel.

Calderon continued that it isn’t only Chinese drug lords and Mexican cartels that are realizing riches from the operation.

“You can’t bring anything into the country without paying off someone,” Calderon said. “There are a lot of ‘fixers’ and guards assigned to these entry ports making a killing from China too.”

The involvement of China in the operation inside Mexico are perpetuating faster growth and movement of fentanyl, a drug which was initially developed for use as both a pain killer and anesthetic which is up to 100 times more powerful than heroin.

The Fox News piece warned that in cases such as Los Zheng, legitimate pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are being used as “fronts” to blur the lines between legal and illegal operations.

Over recent years, Mexican cartels have increased their own production of fentanyl-related products, however, most still rely on Chinese assets for the chemicals used to produce the drug and currently remain the biggest black market customers of the raw materials.

Fox says “raw yet easy-to-cook fentanyl” costs around $2,000 a pound in China and notes that low cost makes it profitable for cartels who then dump their products on American streets.

“For the past 12 years, Chinese criminal organizations have become the backbone to the drug cartels with chemicals supplied to the cartels and laundering tens of billions of the cartel profits in North America and Europe,” said Richard Higgins, author of “The Memo: Twenty Years Inside the Deep State Fighting for America First.”

Higgins is also the president of HTG, LLC, which is a strategic security and information warfare consulting firm. He also previously served on the National Security Council as the director of strategic planning.

“Chinese-organized criminals south and north of the border are very sophisticated using WeChat and other forms of encrypted communication,” he said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says that Mexico and China “are the primary source countries for fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked directly into the United States.”

The DEA has noted that the Sinaloa and New Generation Jalisco cartels are the primary organizations who traffic fentanyl into the U.S. from Mexico via “corridors in Mexico that connect to California and Arizona, indicating drugs passing through these associated areas would need to be approved by these organizations.”

Chinese nationals implicated in the schemes are documented as crossing through the southern border of Mexico in the state of Chiapas, and then assimilate into Tapachula, which is where a large ethnic Chinese community is located. Others enter directly from Asia, coming in through ports on the Mexican Pacific coast, including the resort area of Puerto Vallarta.

Over the past couple of years, through joint operations conducted by U.S. and Mexican authorities, a number of seizures of illicit fentanyl has been realized.

For example, in August of 2019, the Mexican navy seized over 25 tons of Chinese fentanyl enroute to Culiacan, Sinaloa—the Sinaloa cartel’s Mexican flagship. It is estimated that more than 1 million fentanyl pills were seized in Arizona in 2019 alone.

Authorities within the U.S. have made numerous arrests within the past few years related to Chinese involvement in the drug trafficking trade.

Fox reported that just last month, six Chinese nationals were charged relative to a conspiracy involving over $30 million over the past 12 years whereby they distributed drug money to Latin America from the U.S.

According to the Department of Justice, the scheme involved a fairly complex operation in which bribes were offered to undercover informants, cryptocurrency exchanges, as well as creating fraudulent identities and fake U.S. passports in the scheme.

Last June, Xueyong Wu, a Chinese national pleaded guilty for helping launder over $4 million in drug profits related to organizations in Latin America and Mexico, up through and including Virginia.

Last march, yet another Chinese national, Xianbing Gan was convicted in Chicago of money laundering relative to narcotics money, which totaled over a half-million dollars.

Going back to 2007, when Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese-Mexican businessman was indicted for suspicion of trafficking precursor chemicals into Mexico from Asia. Ye Gon had been licensed by the Mexican government to import substances for the benefit of his legal Mexican pharmaceutical corporations.

However, Ye Gon was arrested by federal law enforcement officials in Maryland and charged with importing methamphetamine into the U.S. and seized hundreds of millions of cash from his home in Mexico. He was extradited to Mexico in 2016.

However since that initial arrest, criminal activity between China and Mexico has increased in “depth and sophistication,” Fox reported.

Whereas in the past cartels used fentanyl-laced marijuana or heroin to smuggle the killer drug into the country, they have enhanced so-called “pressing pill” technologies whereby the drug is now placed inside pharmaceutical bottles with sophisticated labels. They are easily transportable across the border and are sold to unsuspecting buyers in the U.S.

Authorities say that this process has made the synthetic fentanyl especially deadly, noting that just a small amount sprinkled into a counterfeit pill cand be fatal, if not highly addictive.

While the onset of the coronavirus earlier last year put a monkey wrench into the illicit drug industry, with the supply chain of much needed chemicals from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, cut off to cartel members in Mexico, they have managed to revamp their production and business models.

Last year, experts said the demand for drugs had soared in part due to the strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic and escalated the opioid overdose crisis which President Trump had called a “public health emergency” three years ago.

The CDC noted that in 2019, more than 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, of which “illicitly manufactured fentanyl, heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine (either alone or in combination) were involved in nearly 85% of drug overdose deaths in 24 states and the District of Columbia during January-June 2019.”

While officially U.S. authorities have said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is neither complicit nor absolved in the illegal drug industry, some are skeptical that the party doesn’t have some involvement or at least awareness of it.

“As part of the CCP’s unrestricted warfare model, they have progressed significantly against America with their enhanced role in the drug business. They can make multibillions and at the same time, undermine the security of America,” said Derek Maltz, retired special agent in charge at the DEA.

“A kilogram of fentanyl can kill 500,000 people so the administration should look at the death rates and treat this as a serious national security threat as opposed to only a public health crisis.”

You can be pretty certain that the Biden administration will turn a blind eye to any nefarious activities by the Chinese communists.

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