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DEA issues warning over counterfeit prescription pills from Mexico

DETROIT — The Drug Enforcement Administration is alerting the public of dangerous counterfeit pills killing Americans. Mexican drug cartels are manufacturing mass quantities of counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid that is lethal in minute doses, for distribution throughout North America.

Based on a sampling of tablets seized nationwide between January and March 2019, DEA found that 27% contained potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.

“Capitalizing on the opioid epidemic and prescription drug abuse in the United States, drug trafficking organizations are now sending counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in bulk to the United States for distribution,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “Counterfeit pills that contain fentanyl and fentanyl-laced heroin are responsible for thousands of opioid-related deaths in the United States each year.”

Fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids remain the primary driver behind the ongoing opioid crisis, with fentanyl involved in more deaths than any other illicit drug.

“The drug cartels flooding the Midwest with counterfeit pills are sophisticated operations,” said DEA Field Division Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin. “Their poisonous pills are made so well, it takes a chemist to determine if a pill is laced with fentanyl or not. What one may think is a legal and pharmacy-produced pill, can actually be a lethal dose of fentanyl. This is an urgent public health situation that touches every corner of our community.”

A lethal dose of fentanyl is estimated to be about two milligrams, but can vary based on an individual’s body size, tolerance, amount of previous usage and other factors. The full Fentanyl Signature Profiling Program Report on the recent drug sampling and testing is available here:

https://admin.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/DEA_Fentanyl_Signature_Profiling_Program_Report-Oct-2019.pdf