Congressman Tim Burchett asks Secretary Azar to expand research into the impact of synthetic opioids

May 17, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON (May 17, 2019) - Congressman Tim Burchett today asked Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, to expand his agency's research into the issues synthetic opioids are causing. 

His letter to the secretary reads as follows:

Dear Secretary Azar,

I write to you to request continued support for the research your agency is doing regarding the scourge of deaths associated with the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl, and I hope you will expand these efforts. This synthetic drug is increasingly a part of the destruction the opioid epidemic is having in Tennessee.

While fentanyl is used in prescription drugs, the illegal manufacturing and mixing with other illegal substances is a serious concern for many. According to the Metro Health Department in Tennessee, fentanyl-related deaths have skyrocketed. As of March 2019, they have been partially responsible for 15 deaths this year. [1] This continues an unfortunate trend that has taken place over the last decade. My district and parts of East Tennessee have seen the numbers and are aware of the uptick in fentanyl related deaths – Knox County Regional Forensic Center’s 2017 report stated that “fentanyl and its analogues are the most frequently found drugs in drug related deaths.” [2] My home state of Tennessee has seen a rise in the number of deaths due to fentanyl, but we are not alone.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the “U.S. overdose death rates linked to synthetic opioids, likely from illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF), increased more than 45 percent from 2016 to 2017.” [3] Across the country we are losing boys and girls, men and women, to this powerful synthetic, which some are referring to as the “third wave” of the opioid epidemic.

I applaud this administration and your efforts to combat the opioid crisis. I am hopeful that as the epidemic has grown at an exponential rate in the last twenty years, so too will our resolve as a nation to combat it. I’m committed to fighting this issue and will work in whatever way to do so with your agency.


Tim Burchett

Member of Congress