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House votes to extend ban on fentanyl-like substances

House votes to extend ban on fentanyl-like substances
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The House easily passed legislation on Wednesday to extend a ban on copycats of fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic opioid, that is set to expire on May 6 without congressional action.

Lawmakers passed the bill by voice vote to extend through Oct. 22 the federal government's ability to regulate fentanyl analogues as one of the most strictly controlled drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Synthetic opioids — including fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine — are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 50,000 deaths involving all synthetic opioids in a 12-month period ending in July 2020.

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Rep. Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasHouse Democrats hit Republicans on mobile billboard at GOP retreat House votes to extend ban on fentanyl-like substances House Republicans pressuring Democrats to return donations from Ocasio-Cortez MORE (D-N.H.), whose state has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, said it's all the more urgent for Congress to extend the classification for fentanyl analogues — which has been in place since 2018 — given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic's effect on drug use.

"The addiction crisis has worsened as a result of this pandemic and this is not the time to let regulations lapse or to back away from our commitment to get people the help that they need," Pappas said on the House floor.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where some senators have proposed a longer extension. Earlier this week, Sens. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyLawmakers bicker over how to go after tax cheats On The Money: Biden says workers can't turn down job and get benefits | Treasury launches state and local aid | Businesses jump into vax push Grassley criticizes Biden's proposal to provide IRS with B MORE (R-Iowa), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanThe 'frills' of Biden's infrastructure plan are real needs DC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout Overnight Health Care: Biden announces 1M have enrolled in special ObamaCare sign-up period | Rand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins | Biden vows to get 'more aggressive' on lifestyle benefits of vaccines MORE (D-N.H.) and John CornynJohn CornynGOP split on counteroffer to Biden's spending Police reform talks hit familiar stumbling block CNN asks Carol Baskin to comment on loose Texas tiger MORE (R-Texas) introduced legislation to extend the fentanyl analogue classification through July 6, 2022.

Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersFive takeaways from new CDC guidance on going maskless GOP votes to replace Cheney with Stefanik after backing from Trump Stefanik shake-up jump-starts early jockeying for committee posts MORE (Wash.), the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, supported the legislation on Wednesday but called for a longer-term extension.

"This short-term extension from the Democratic majority fails to meet the gravity of the situation facing our communities, our border and our country," McMorris Rodgers said.

The Justice Department last week signaled support for a seven-month extension on the fentanyl analogue ban.