DEA warns against counterfeit pills containing fentanyl: ‘1 pill can be enough to kill someone’

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FILE – This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of prescription oxycodone pills in New York. U.S. health officials are again warning doctors against abandoning chronic pain patients by abruptly stopping their opioid prescriptions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead urged doctors Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, to share such decisions with patients. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WIAT) — The New Orleans Field Division of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration released a warning on May 21 to all citizens warning of an increase in drug overdose deaths tied to counterfeit pills containing the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

DEA lab analysis has identified pills that contain .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 depending on the physical make up of a person. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the release.

The pills are marketed on the illicit drug market as a medication like oxycodone. Counterfeit pills purchased online or through social media websites pose a serious public health and safety hazard. Besides containing potentially life-threatening hidden ingredients, such as fentanyl or methamphetamine, these pills may contain the wrong ingredients, contain too little, too much or no active ingredient at all.

“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, in the release. “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 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.

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