Mexican president floats banning use of medicinal fentanyl

FILE PHOTO: Plastic bags of Fentanyl are displayed on a table at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection area at the International Mail Facility at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday proposed putting an end to medicinal use of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid blamed for rising U.S. drug overdose deaths which has fed tensions between his country and the U.S.

Critics of Mexico's counter-narcotics strategy say Lopez Obrador has not done enough to prevent trafficking of fentanyl, and some Republican lawmakers have urged Washington to authorize the use of military force to bring Mexico's drug gangs to heel.

Lopez Obrador has vigorously rejected such suggestions, and argues his government is reducing the threat posed by the drug, saying it has seized more illegal fentanyl than "ever before."

During a regular news conference, he said he would ask medical experts to analyze the possibility of "substituting fentanyl for medical uses with other painkillers."

"If we do it in Mexico, we'll ask them to do it in the United States, so they also prohibit it for medical ends," he added, criticizing the effectiveness of U.S. anti-drugs policy and saying Mexico would not play a subordinate role to the U.S.

Earlier this week, Mexico said it was not a production hub for fentanyl, saying the drug and its ingredients largely come from Asia. However U.S. officials have contradicted this.

(Reporting by Mexico City Newsroom; Editing by Marguerita Choy)