Gov. Matt Bevin issued an emergency regulation Nov. 15 to place a synthetic painkiller called U-47700 on a controlled-substance list in Kentucky and make it subject to criminal drug penalties.
“New illicit deadly drugs are making their way into our communities and destroying lives,” Bevin said in a news release. “More than three Kentucky families a day are shattered by a drug overdose. . . . This executive order gives our law enforcement officers the immediate support they need to help save lives.”
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in Kentucky. In 2015, 1,248 Kentuckians died of overdoses, up from 1,088 in 2014.
The emergency regulation also allows other drugs that are classified as controlled substances to be automatically placed in the same drug class in Kentucky. “This allows the process to be expedited, instead of reopening the regulation every time a new synthetic drug is discovered,” says the release.
The emergency regulation places U-47700, nicknamed “pink”, in the same drug class as heroin and fentanyl, the category for drugs that have no medical purpose and present high potential for abuse.
Van Ingram, executive director of the state Office of Drug Control Policy, told Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader that most U-47700 in the U.S. comes from China and is sold over the internet, where it is sometimes advertised as being legal. Ingram said there have been three cases in Kentucky.
“We want to send a message that it’s not legal in Kentucky,” he said. “It’s dangerous.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has also added U-47700 to the list of Schedule I drugs. It was associated with 46 confirmed fatalities in 2015 and 2016, according to the DEA news release.
“Because substances like U-47700 are often manufactured in illicit labs overseas, the identity, purity, and quantity are unknown, creating a ‘Russian Roulette’ scenario for any user,” said the DEA news release.