April 2, 2019

Cassidy, Hassan, Kustoff, Kuster Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill Targeting Counterfeit Pill Makers

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), along with U.S. Representatives David Kustoff (R-TN) and Annie Kuster (D-NH), today reintroduced the Substance Tableting and Encapsulating Enforcement and Registration (STEER) Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation to combat the opioid crisis by cracking down on counterfeit pill makers.

The STEER Act allows 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 United States, 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 DEA.

Cassidy published an oped conveying Congress’ ongoing commitment to combating the opioid crisis and the need for an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach.

 “We can save lives by getting dangerous counterfeit pills off the streets,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This bipartisan legislation gives law enforcement resources to shut down black-market pill makers and protect our communities.”

“Counterfeit synthetic drugs are contributing to the deadly fentanyl, heroin, and opioid crisis that continues to ravage communities in New Hampshire and across the country, and we must do everything we can to prevent the production of these dangerous pills,” said Senator Hassan. “The bipartisan STEER Act will give law enforcement the tools needed to better identify pill presses that are being used for illicit purposes and implement criminal penalties for the makers of such illegal pills. I’ll keep working across party lines to turn the tide of this crisis and help save lives.”

“The opioid death rate is now at an all-time high, and it is vital we do all we can to provide real solutions to this crisis that is devastating families throughout West Tennessee,” said Representative Kustoff. “The STEER Act proposes tangible steps to help authorities crack down on the production of illicit drugs. I am happy to join my colleagues in introducing this important piece of legislation and I urge its swift passage.” 

“Synthetic opioids are accelerating an already deadly epidemic and we must do everything we can to stop the spread of these drugs,” said Representative Kuster. “Many knockoff opioids contain dangerous synthetics such as fentanyl or carfentanil, which can kill unwitting individuals who are suffering from substance use disorder. We must hold drug dealers and manufacturers responsible for pushing these counterfeit pills. Cracking down on unregistered pill presses will provide law enforcement with another tool to combat this crisis.”

In 2017, CNN reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection “is seizing pill presses at a rate 19 times higher than in 2011. That’s the year the synthetic drug fentanyl exploded in the US drug market, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. … ‘People have died from ingesting what they think is a legitimate painkiller, (but really) it’s a counterfeit pill that contains fentanyl,’” said one Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does this legislation do?

This legislation gives the U.S. Department of Justice and law enforcement the ability to better combat the opioid crisis by identifying pill press machines being used for illegal purposes. It also creates criminal penalties for people who use tableting and encapsulating machines to turn illegal drugs into counterfeit pills that cause accidental overdoses.

Does this legislation mean that I will no longer be able to own a pill press machine?

No. Anyone who currently owns a pill press machine or who is able to own a pill press machine will still be free to do so. This legislation does not affect anyone’s ability to purchase or own a pill press machine.

Will I have to register the machine I use for soaps, vitamins, or other homeopathic purposes?

No. This legislation is targeted to fight the opioid epidemic. If you are not manufacturing controlled substances or using analogues of controlled substances in your manufacturing, this legislation does not apply to you.

If I own a pill press machine, will I be put on a government list?

No. If you have not and are not using your machine to make drugs classified as controlled substances, this legislation does not require the U.S. attorney general to register your machine.

How is the government going to register all of these machines?

The bill requires the U.S. attorney general to make the public aware of the need to register pill press machines if they are using them to create controlled substances. If you are not using your pill press or encapsulating machine to create controlled substances, or have not used it to do so in the past, the attorney general is not required to register the machine. Additionally, the attorney general is not required to register a machine if doing so is inconsistent with public interest.

Won’t criminals just lie about how they use their machines and make deadly counterfeit pills with fentanyl anyway?

While no legislation can make people tell the truth, this legislation does increase the penalties for criminals who lie and use tableting and encapsulating machines to put deadly opioids on the streets. This bill will help ensure more criminals receive jail time and pay fines.