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hinese laboratories are producing and openly selling a new form of deadly fentanyl to get around China’s recent export ban on the synthetic drug causing thousands of overdose deaths across the United States.

The slightly tweaked version of fentanyl — called furanyl fentanyl — is so new that it is not on the US government’s list of controlled substances. That means the altered fentanyl, which was blamed for the March overdose of an Illinois man, is technically legal for drug dealers to sell.

The US Drug Enforcement Agency told STAT Monday that it is moving quickly to ban street sales of the new fentanyl product. The agency plans within days to classify furanyl fentanyl  as an analog to fentanyl, which would mean the new drug would be treated in the same fashion as fentanyl, said DEA spokesman Russell Baer. He added that the producers of the new fentanyl are located in China and said the agency is planning similar action with other fentanyl analogs it has identified.

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Fentanyl can be legally prescribed by physicians, often to treat chronic pain. Any other sale of the drug is illegal.

The DEA is also working to place the new version of fentanyl on the permanent list of controlled substances, a move that requires review by the Food and Drug Administration, Baer said.

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The chemical structure of the new drug, and its effect on the body’s central nervous central system, is nearly identical to that of fentanyl. China last fall banned more than 116 synthetic drugs, including other analogs of fentanyl. One of the most popular of those is called acetyl fentanyl.

Once the ban was in place, furanyl fentanyl began to show up in the United States.

“Laboratories are automatically tweaking the formula to come up with the next analog,” said Baer. “We will seek to put furanyl fentanyl on the list (of controlled substances), and then they will tweak one molecule, and in two months we will be discussing that one. It is a challenging process for us.”

A laboratory company called Dharma Chemicals, or Dharmachem, that reports an address in a central China commercial district, recently told a STAT reporter by email that is was no longer selling the banned acetyl fentanyl, but that it “just added” furanyl fentanyl to “our catalogues.” The company said the drug was being sold for “laboratory research.”

The company was previously accused in a World Health Organization report of selling acetyl fentanyl over the Internet.

Furanyl fentanyl was recently identified as the cause of death in the fatal overdose of a 30-year-old man in Naperville, Ill., a suburb west of Chicago, according to an overdose database maintained by the Will County coroner. It appears to be the first public reporting of a case in which the new version of fentanyl caused a deadly overdose.

In many areas of the United States and Canada, fentanyl is now causing more fatal overdoses than heroin. The drug is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and many times stronger than heroin. In some cases, fentanyl is being sold in pill form, often made to look like other prescription painkillers that fetch a higher price on the street. Fentanyl is also being added to heroin. Users are often unaware they are snorting or injecting the more powerful fentanyl.

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  • I know a young person who recently died from furanylfentanyl. he had no idea what he had gotten
    himself into. He had lied to a website from China and said he was using it for his lab he did not have a lab but just wanted a quick Buzz it only took him one time and he had a seizure and
    died, please stay away from these analogues they are
    dangerous they are like putting a loaded gun to your head and pulling the trigger. Is a quick buzz worth a lifetime of suffering for your loved ones? China needs to stop importing these drugs at once and
    the fentanyl analogs need to be banned asap

    • China importing analogs and research chemicals is only part of the problem. The bigger problem is the people receiving these drugs in the U.S. are ignorant and need to research what their putting in their bodies. The government also needs to set up a better system for people suffering from addiction. Narcotics have been systemically scapegoated and demonized and this problem will get worse as long as these views continue to be spread.

    • china importing needs to be banned all together or make it not worth their while, it cant be regulated way to much crap

    • LOLZ didn’t the article just tell you (us)? DharmaChems right? But seriously, a former junk fiend told me; this whole new RC craze is actually really terrifying if you have any understanding of pharmacology. It’s really terrifying because you have tons of very talented, educated, and under-employed+underpaid young chemists in China that are wholly capable of producing some seriously hard junk that, like the article says, can be designed to get around drug laws. The whole RC scene is a result of prohibition and shows the utter and complete failure of American drug policy and the DIRE need for reform. These drugs aren’t flowing into the country anymore IN SPITE OF the laws, they are coming out BECAUSE OF the laws. Unless you have like a super-sensitive $500-2000 scale you can’t safely measure+dose the fent analogues as many are active enough to kill opiate-naive users in the microgram range. This is seriously dangerous shit; don’t do it dude. The BEST that could happen to you is that you don’t die after one or a few times doing RC fent analogues, and instead develop a MONSTROUS habit with a MONSTROUS tolerance. I’ve known MANY experienced OLDER (careful and high tolerance) users drop dead from RC fent analogues and it fucking sucks. A heroin OD usually gives you some time to bring someone back, fent hits you so fast and hard it’s usually over by the time the ambulance arrives, and in many cases Fent has such a strong binding affinity Nalaxone won’t even work……I wish I could convince you otherwise but you’re prolly already dead if you found the answer to your own question.

    • You mean how can you die? My 35 yr old son died a couple months ago from this being in what he took. He was dead when responders arrived.

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