Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and August Pfluger (R-Texas) on Thursday announced bipartisan legislation that aims to crack down on the abuse and distribution of tianeptine, commonly referred to as “gas station heroin,” amid heightened concerns about the abuse of the unregulated drug.
The bill — Scheduling Tianeptine and Analogues Now to Defend (STAND) Against Emerging Opioids Act — would add tianeptine to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act, making it illegal to sell without a prescription. Other Schedule III drugs include codeine (with less than 90 mg/dose), ketamine, anabolic steroids and testosterone.
Panetta said the legislation would enable the administration to take a more active role in monitoring the drug.
“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,” Panetta said in the press release.
Pfluger said placing the drug under Schedule III is “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,” Pfluger added.
The legislation comes amid concerns about the widespread availability of the drug. Several states recently have taken steps to ban the drug completely. Because the tianeptine is not classified as a drug, it is sold in some dietary supplements in convenience stores and gas stations and often is marketed illegally, the FDA said.
Tianeptine is not approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it is prescribed to treat depression and other conditions in other countries, including in Europe, Asia and Latin America. The legislation would permit the FDA to approve the drug for medical use “at its discretion.”
The FDA has warned the public about the dangers of tianeptine, and, on Tuesday, issued a warning to consumers to stop using Neptune’s Fix, a pain supplement with tianeptine that can lead to severe side effects. The FDA noted that the manufacturer agreed to voluntarily recall all remaining lots of Neptune’s Fix Elixir, Neptune’s Fix Extra Strength Elixir and Neptune’s Fix Tablets.