Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is traveling to China this week and plans to push officials to take action to curb production of the highly lethal opioid drug fentanyl, he told the Washington Free Beacon.
Rosenstein, traveling to China to deliver a keynote address to the INTERPOL General Assembly in Beijing on Tuesday, will also work to secure cooperation from Chinese government officials on stopping the production of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid considered to be up to 100 times stronger than morphine.
"I plan to meet with Chinese officials to talk about what we can do cooperatively to cut down on China exporting fentanyl and fentanyl derivatives that are causing deaths in the United States," Rosenstein said.
Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl have skyrocketed in recent years, and much of the product is coming from China, the Drug Enforcement Agency said earlier this year.
China has already taken steps to ban fentanyl, but producers have been able to skirt the laws by making slight modifications to the chemical structure of the drug. Rosenstein plans to make sure the versions that are causing deaths in the United States are banned.
"If China puts a control on a particular fentanyl derivative, it results in a reduction of the production of that derivative—just like here, not everybody is willing to flaunt the law," Rosenstein explained. "The problem we have now is that by changing the chemical nature of the fentanyl, people are not in violation of Chinese law by producing it."
"Our goal is to make sure we're in sync with China in that the drugs that are causing deaths here in the United States are prohibited or at least regulated in China, so people can't freely produce them and ship them to the United States," he said.
The DOJ has deemed the current opioid epidemic a crisis, and last week announced that $58.8 million in department grants would be allocated to address it.
Rosenstein says it is determined to change the government's approach to combating opioid deaths.
"If we keep doing what we're doing, we’re going to get the same results," he said. "The strategy that the government's been using over the last couple of years clearly isn't working."
One adjustment the department has made is to be more aggressive when it comes to stopping the drugs at the source.
"We're being much more aggressive about our pursuit of drug organizations, and we're also looking at the drug supply," Rosenstein said. "That's one of the things the federal government has the ability to do that local authorities don't, to look up the chain at where the substances are coming from and what we can do to disrupt the supply."