If you think American corporations are corrupt and only “in it for the money,” then you’ll really be shocked by the actions of certain corporations in China. Most of ours have nothing on Chinese corporations, where corruption is not simply the name of the game but an accepted form of doing business.
Normally that might not matter much, but when it comes to Chinese chicanery involving potentially dangerous medications, we now have a reason to worry.
The Associated Press is reporting that Chinese pharmaceutical vendors have no qualms at all about selling one of the strongest opioids in circulation – one that is so deadly that an amount smaller than a poppy seed can kill a human being.
This past summer reports of carfentanil overdoses began to show up in the United States, bringing attention to the drug. Before that, however, most people only knew it as a strong tranquilizer for large animals such as elephants and moose, or even as a chemical weapon. But despite these obvious dangers, Chinese dealers are selling it online, for export around the world and with no questions asked, according to an AP investigation. That’s danger with a capital “D.”
The newswire service identified a dozen Chinese firms willing to export carfentanil to the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and Belgium for as little as $2,750 a kilogram (2.2 pounds).
A chemical weapon?
That’s enough to literally kill thousands of people, when you consider how little of it results in an overdose.
As the U.S. continues to struggle with a Big Pharma-induced opioid epidemic that has killed tens of thousands in America alone, now comes carfentanil. In China, which is the No. 1 global source for synthetic drugs, carfentanil is not a controlled substance. And while Washington is pressing Beijing to better regulate it, so far the Chinese government has failed to do so.
“We can supply carfentanil … for sure,” a saleswoman from Jilin Tely Import and Export Co. wrote in broken English in a September email to the AP. “And it’s one of our hot sales product.”
The news agency said it did not actually order any drugs or test whether the product in question was real. The Drug Enforcement Agency said that most synthetic drugs in the U.S. come from China.
For many decades before it was pinpointed by drug pushers, carfentanil and substances similar to it were being researched as chemical weapons by the U.S., Israel, Russia. China, the U.K., the Czech Republic and India, according to documents the AP reviewed. However they are not permitted on the battlefield, as per the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty.
“It’s a weapon,” Andrew Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, biological, chemical and biological defense weapons programs from 2009-2014, told the AP. “Companies shouldn’t just be sending it to anybody.”
In terms of potency, carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, a related drug that is about 50 times more potent than heroin. Forms of the latter have been suspected in an unsuccessful attempt in 1997 by Israeli Mossad agents to kill a Hamas leader in Jordan. It was also used to deadly effect by Russian troops against Chechen separatists who took hundreds of people hostage in a theater in Moscow in a 2002 incident.
Exports from China may be impossible to stop
Weber said the theater incident prompted U.S. scientists and planners to develop countermeasures to carfentanil’s use as a potential chemical weapon.
“Countries that we are concerned about were interested in using it for offensive purposes,” he told the AP. “We are also concerned that groups like ISIS could order in commercially.”
Apparently, thanks to Beijing’s lax controls, they can – especially after drug dealers figured out they could make big profits by cutting fentanyl into illegal drugs. In fiscal year 2014, police and other authorities only seized about eight pounds of fentanyl, but this past fiscal year through mid-July they have seized more than 295 pounds. And as such, corresponding overdose rates are skyrocketing.
Chinese experts say even if the government moves to control the production and sale of carfentanil at some point, distributors will make and sell small amounts, making it next to impossible to interdict.
H/t reader kevin a.