DEA issues warning over counterfeit pills

DEA is alerting all citizens to an increase in drug overdose deaths tied to counterfeit pills containing the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Posted: May 21, 2021 10:14 AM

NEW ORLEANS – DEA is alerting all citizens to an increase in drug overdose deaths tied to counterfeit pills containing the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. Manufactured by Mexican drug trafficking (DTOs), and marketed as a medication such as oxycodone on the illicit drug market, these pills can be deadly.

One pill can be enough to kill someone. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times stronger than morphine. DEA lab analysis has identified pills ranging from .02 milligrams to 5.1 milligrams of fentanyl per tablet, with 26% of the counterfeit pills tested containing a lethal dose of fentanyl. A deadly dose of fentanyl can be as little as 2 milligrams.

Counterfeit pills purchased online or through social media websites pose a serious public health and safety hazard. These pills may contain the wrong ingredients, contain too little, too much, or no active ingredient at all, or contain other, potentially life-threatening hidden ingredients, such as fentanyl or methamphetamine. DEA urges the public to obtain prescription drugs only from state-licensed pharmacies that are located in the United States, where the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state authorities can assure the quality of drug manufacturing, packaging, distribution, and labeling. 

“Counterfeit pills are extremely dangerous, as they often contain toxic or illicit ingredients such as fentanyl, increasing the likelihood of an overdose,” said Brad L. Byerley, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s New Orleans Field Division. “Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are pushing these deadly substances into the illicit drug market to expand their business among the already increasing opioid-addicted population. Manufacturing these pills using deadly substances like fentanyl is a reflection of the evil by which these drug traffickers operate for their profit. Americans are dying across the country and here in Louisiana. To anyone going outside the healthcare system to obtain otherwise legitimate medications, I would say this: Don’t do it. You can never be certain of what you’re getting and you’re playing Russian roulette with your life.” DEA will continue to work with all of our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, examining all available reporting details surrounding overdose deaths to pursue any investigative leads and determine the origin of the counterfeit pills and its current prevalence across the state.

DEA urges the community to share information concerning the availability of any synthetic opioids as they surface within local drug markets with your local law enforcement agency. The DEA will continue to notify the public of any drug threats as they emerge.
Parents and children are encouraged to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.JustThinkTwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.

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