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Congressman Pallone calls for action to protect New Jerseyans from ‘gas station heroin’

NEW JERSEY – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) Thursday held a press conference to call for action to protect New Jerseyans from “gas station heroin.”

In a series of letters, Pallone recently raised concern over the public health risks associated with increased ingestion of tianeptine, a purported dietary supplement often sold under the label “Neptune’s Fix.”

According to America’s Poison Control Centers, 391 tianeptine cases were reported nationwide last year, including 27 in New Jersey.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public safety alert on tianeptine in November and sent a letter to convenience stores, gas stations, and other organizations earlier this year urging them to stop selling Neptune’s Fix and other products with tianeptine. After a January 2024 FDA notice urging a voluntary recall of these products, Neptune Resources, issued a nationwide recall of three products.

Earlier this month, Pallone wrote to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to urge further action to prevent further harm to public health. He also wrote to the National Association of Convenience Stores and the Council for Responsible Nutrition to request a briefing on how they are protecting consumers from dangerous products. Pallone is the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over health policy, including FDA and HRSA.

“Despite the voluntary recall, I remain concerned that these products and other similar ones may still be on stores shelves, jeopardizing the health of our communities, and particularly our kids,” Pallone wrote to HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “As the Administrator who oversees our Poison Control Centers, I urge you to take action to support our Poison Control Centers more widely in responding to the increase of calls.”

“Harmful tianeptine-containing products that are regularly sold at gas stations have resulted in a dramatic spike in the number of calls to the New Jersey Poison Control Center in recent months,” Pallone wrote to the National Association of Convenience Stores. “Given your organization’s visibility into the operation of gas stations and convenience stores nationally, I write to understand the steps you are taking to abide by a manufacturer’s product recall earlier this year and urgently ensure these harmful products are removed from your members’ shelves.”

“I am glad to be part of this effort to raise awareness about tianeptine–one of the more recent, unregulated products that is too easily available under the guise of being a harmless mood and cognitive booster,” said Dr. Eric Alcera, central region chair, Behavioral Health, Hackensack Meridian Health, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Carrier Clinic, Hackensack Meridian Health’s flagship behavioral health hospital. “We also must improve access to substance use disorder treatment to combat the need that many feel to turn to such products as tianeptine to self-medicate when they cannot afford safe, medically supervised care. Illicit substance use often does not exist in a vacuum. Often, it co-exists with mental illness. That is why at Hackensack Meridian Health–a leader in expanding access to and modernizing mental health care, combating stigma and focusing on breakthrough research for treatments–we have made dual-diagnosis treatment programs a priority.”

According to FDA, tianeptine is a “potentially dangerous substance that is not FDA-approved for any medical use but is illegally sold with claims to improve brain function and treat anxiety, depression, pain, opioid use disorder and other conditions.” Tianeptine mimics the sedative effects of opioids, which has led to its “Gas Station Heroin” nickname.

According to press reports, people quickly develop a tolerance to tianeptine, which can result in increased use and has driven increased dosages resulting in an alarming spike in the number of calls to poison control centers across the country. Anyone who has been exposed to tianeptine should call the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or 911 for immediate medical attention.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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