Officials seize more than 9.5 million lethal fake pills in 2021, warn of alarming increase

This undated photo provided by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office shows fentanyl...
This undated photo provided by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office shows fentanyl pills. Authorities say they've arrested Ryan Gaston, a man in a Cleveland suburb after seizing more than 900 fentanyl pills marked liked tablets of the less-potent opiate oxycodone. The Cuyahoga County medical examiner said that lookalike pills were likely to blame for some of the county's 19 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in January 2016. (Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office via AP)(AP)
Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 4:25 PM CDT
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(Gray News) – The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a public safety alert Monday warning of the alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills.

According to the DEA, international and domestic criminal drug networks are mass-producing counterfeit drugs and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills, killing unsuspecting people in the process.

The pills are easy to buy and often contain deadly doses of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

“Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram explained.

The DEA reports fentanyl is the primary driver in a surge of overdose deaths. Officials explained a deadly dose is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States in 2020, the largest number of drug-related deaths ever recorded in a year.

“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” Milgram said.

Agents with the DEA have seized more than 9.5 million fake pills so far in 2021, which they say is more than the last two years combined.

“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,” Milgram said.

The DEA emphasizes this alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by licensed pharmacists.

“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,” the DEA wrote in a press release.

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