(WASHINGTON, DC) July 19, 2023 — The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the SUPPORT Act - a legislative package aimed to address the growing threat of the opioid crisis, which includes key components of the AVMA-endorsed Combating Illicit Xylazine Act. After sustained advocacy efforts from the AVMA, the language within the SUPPORT Act would schedule xylazine as a Schedule III drug while exempting from scheduling the FDA-approved animal drug, which means that veterinarians will be able to use it as they always have under federal law.
Illicit xylazine has now been found across the country mixed with fentanyl and other narcotics. This potent drug combination poses grave health and safety risks to human users. In veterinary medicine, xylazine is an important prescription sedative used to facilitate the safe handling and treatment of many species and is particularly important for use in cattle, horses, wildlife, and research species.
In both the House and Senate, the AVMA helped develop, introduce, and build support for the bipartisan Combating Illicit Xylazine Act. In this bill, anyone involved with the manufacturing, distribution, dispensing, or possession of xylazine with the intent to traffic for human use would be subject to Schedule III penalties under the federal Controlled Substances Act. At the same time, the legitimate veterinary uses would remain under their current prescription status.
The AVMA remains supportive of the approach taken in both the SUPPORT Act and the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act as they both equip the DEA with resources to address illicit xylazine while maintaining veterinary access to the animal drug at its current prescription status under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“The House Energy and Commerce Committee advancing key components of the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act represents months of collaborative work between the AVMA, congressional offices, federal agencies, and other stakeholders,” said Dr. Rena Carlson, AVMA President. “The AVMA appreciates the dedication lawmakers have demonstrated to address the public health crisis of illicit xylazine while at the same time understanding how essential the animal sedative is to veterinary medicine. On behalf of the veterinary community, we are incredibly appreciative of the strong leadership demonstrated by Reps. August Pfluger, Jimmy Panetta, Gus Bilirakis, and Ken Buck, and Senators Catherine Cortez Masto, and Chuck Grassley - the steadfast congressional champions of this legislation that protects public health and animal welfare. Thank you to Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ranking Member Frank Pallone for their bipartisan support in recognizing the need to advance this legislation as part of the Committee's public health initiatives. This policy strikes a well-balanced approach and the AVMA will continue its efforts in both chambers to ensure this policy is signed into law.”
Reps. Pfluger, Panetta, Bilirakis, and Buck issued the following statements:
“The drug crisis in our country is becoming more tragic by the day, with drug traffickers turning to an important veterinary tranquilizer to make drugs more addictive—and more deadly,” said Rep. Plufger. “I am proud that the SUPPORT Act builds upon my legislation with Rep. Panetta to address illicit xylazine use while protecting access to the critical drug for veterinary use.”
“The rise of xylazine-adulterated fentanyl threatens public health and public safety in communities throughout our country,” said Rep. Panetta. “After seeing the threat start to grow, I authored the bipartisan Combating Illicit Xylazine Act to take a proactive and targeted approach to regulating xylazine’s use in veterinary medicine while ensuring that our law enforcement has the tools they need to prevent its abuse. We just took another important step forward in this fight, and I’ll continue to work alongside my partners both in and out of Congress to deliver the urgent action needed to confront this crisis head-on.”
“Our goal is to save lives and to make sure law enforcement has the tools it needs to respond appropriately to those who are making these deadly concoctions that are killing so many of our neighbors,” said Rep. Bilirakis. “At the same time, we must ensure that those veterinarians who are using xylazine for legitimate purposes have the ability to continue doing so. Our legislation strikes that right balance.”
“The opioid epidemic has taken far too many lives across our country, including in my own home state of Colorado. Adding the deadly fentanyl adulterant xylazine to the Controlled Substances Act would save lives and prevent needless opioid overdoses,” said Rep. Buck. “The Combating Illicit Xylazine Act would give law enforcement the tools necessary to stop this drug from wreaking havoc in our most vulnerable communities while also protecting the rights of veterinarians and cattlemen to use xylazine legally.”