DEA issues public safety alert: U.S. being flooded with fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and meth

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WASHINGTON (KLFY) — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued its first public safety alert in six years today, warning Americans of a significant rise in the number of fake prescription pills containing possible lethal doses of fentanyl and lesser amounts of methamphetamines.

The fake pills are being made to look like real prescription medications, such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Xanax and/or Adderal.

“Fake prescription pills are widely accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms – making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including minors,” stated a press release by the DEA.

The DEA said it has confiscated more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills so far this year, more than the last two years combined.

DEA officials said this alert does not apply to legitimate medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by licensed pharmacists. The legitimate prescription supply chain is not impacted. Anyone filling a prescription at a licensed pharmacy can be confident that the medications they receive are safe when taken as directed by a medical professional. Counterfeit pills are being illegally manufactured by criminal drug networks. The vast majority of counterfeit pills brought into the United States are produced in Mexico, and China is supplying chemicals for the manufacturing of fentanyl in Mexico.

“DEA laboratory testing reveals a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose,” stated the release. “A deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.”

“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before. In fact, DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose. DEA is focusing resources on taking down the violent drug traffickers causing the greatest harm and posing the greatest threat to the safety and health of Americans. Today, we are alerting the public to this danger so that people have the information they need to protect themselves and their children.”

“Counterfeit pills often contain fentanyl and even a small amount of fentanyl can be lethal,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley. “There is a disturbing trend across the nation, including here in our region, of drug traffickers using fake pills to exploit the opioid crisis. Fentanyl, most commonly found in these counterfeit pills, is the primary driver in this shocking increase in overdose deaths. DEA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue those who ruthlessly traffic these and other dangerous drugs.”

The drug overdose crisis in the United States is a serious public safety threat with rates currently reaching the highest level in history. Drug traffickers are using fake pills to exploit the opioid crisis and prescription drug misuse in the United States, bringing overdose deaths and violence to American communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States last year. Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid most commonly found in counterfeit pills, is the primary driver of this alarming increase in overdose deaths. Drug poisonings involving methamphetamine, increasingly found to be pressed into counterfeit pills, also continue to rise as illegal pills containing methamphetamine become more widespread.

Drug trafficking is also inextricably linked to violence. This year alone, DEA seized more than 2700 firearms in connection with drug trafficking investigations – a 30 percent increase since 2019. DEA remains steadfast in its mission to protect our communities, enforce U.S. drug laws, and bring to justice the foreign and domestic criminals sourcing, producing, and distributing illicit drugs, including counterfeit pills.

DEA News Release, 9/27/21

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