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US lawmakers move to ban tianeptine without prescription

Josh Long

February 6, 2024

2 Min Read

Two members of Congress from California and Texas introduced a bill in late January that would make it illegal to sell tianeptine – otherwise known as “gas station heroin” – without a prescription.

The bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and August Pfluger (R-Texas) would add tianeptine and its analogues to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The bill is called the Scheduling Tianeptine and Analogues Now to Defend Against Emerging Opioids Act (STAND Against Emerging Opioids Act).

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved tianeptine as a drug in the U.S. and even says it doesn’t belong in dietary supplements, but Panetta and Pfluger noted tianeptine “is widely available at convenience stores, smoke shops and across the internet.”

FDA on Jan. 23 announced that a company selling tianeptine (Neptune Resources LLC) agreed to voluntarily recall all lots of three of its products. FDA sent a letter on Jan. 11, urging convenience stores, gas stations and other retailers to stop selling tianeptine products.

FDA revealed it continues to receive serious adverse event reports – including death, loss of consciousness and seizures – after consumers have used Neptune’s Fix products.

“As tianeptine is becoming more accessible at convenience stores and gas stations, it also is becoming more of a danger to our communities,” Panetta said in a Jan. 25 press release. “By scheduling tianeptine under the Controlled Substances Act, the bipartisan STAND Against Emerging Opioids Act will help prevent the prevalence and abuse of this unregulated drug. As the opioid crisis continues to evolve, the federal government needs to actively monitor these types of emerging drugs as threats to our public health and safety.”

Related:Tianeptine products voluntarily recalled following FDA letter to retailers

The lawmakers said nine states have banned tianeptine and cases of tianeptine exposure grew to at least 391 in 2023 from only four a decade earlier.

“Tianeptine, a potent opioid-like drug, poses alarming risks, and the ease of acquiring it — like candy — is a public health threat,” Pfluger said in the release. “I am proud to work with Congressman Jimmy Panetta on bipartisan legislation to place tianeptine under Schedule III — a crucial step to getting this addictive drug out of convenience stores and gas stations. Recognizing proactive state measures and prioritizing safety, we underscore our commitment to combat the opioid epidemic and protect our communities.”

About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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