Counterfeit Pills Laced with Fentanyl are Ravaging Communities Across North America

Since 2012, Canadians have suffered because of an illicit market in counterfeit medications made from fentanyl, a dangerous painkiller 25-40 times stronger than heroin. Canadian authorities have shut down over 20 fentanyl labs since 2013.  In October 2015, 3 people in San Francisco died after consuming counterfeit Xanax laced with fentanyl. The problem has spread to at least 31 states (see news coverage by state, below), where authorities have reported waves of overdoses and fatalities after residents took counterfeit pills that contained the drug. Recently, authorities have been seeing pills containing carfentanil, an even more powerful drug used to sedate large animals.

According to the DEA, pills containing fentanyl or its analogues are manufactured in Canada or Mexico and smuggled across the border, but they're also made domestically when Americans buy powdered fentanyl and pill presses (often from China) to distribute it themselves. The drugs are so toxic that investigators have to wear HAZMAT suits to avoid exposure.

Counterfeit drugs with no active ingredients have caused patients suffering by not curing their illnesses for more than 15 years. Now, counterfeit drugs with deadly ingredients threaten American lives with just one dose. A closed, secure supply chain is even more imperative when the risk of breakage is death.

News Coverage by State:

-Nation-wide Reporting

Pills that kill: why are thousands dying from fentanyl abuse? (December 11, 2016)

U.S. Seeks Curb on Chemicals Used to Make Fentanyl, a Powerful Opioid (October 14, 2016)

This photo shows exactly why Fentanyl is deadlier than heroin (September 30, 2016)

Prince's death and the growing fear of the 'kill pill' (August 26, 2016)

Illegally Made Fentanyl Seems To Be Fueling A Spike In Overdoses (August 25, 2016)

Counterfeit pain pills likely came to Prince illegally (August 25, 2016)

Fake Xanax can be a killer (August 10, 2016)

Counterfeit Alprazolam Poses a 'Major Public Health Threat' (Medscape, August 8, 2016)

“Fentanyl and a Novel Synthetic Opioid U-47700 Masquerading as Street ‘Norco’ in Central California: A Case Report” (July 26, 2016)

How Knockoff Fentanyl Dodges Cops (June 6, 2016)

GOP senator calls for China to crack down on illegal opioid (May 25, 2016)

'Death pill': fentanyl disguised as other drugs linked to spike in US overdoses (May 10, 2016)

Deadly fentanyl epidemic linked to China (April 27, 2016)

This New Street Drug is 10,000 Times More Potent than Morphine, and now it's Showing up in Canada and the U.S. (April 27, 2016)

Chinese Labs Modify Deadly Fentanyl to Circumvent Ban on Sales to U.S. (April 26, 2016)

Deadly Fentanyl Trade Linked to Chinese Companies (April 21, 2016)

‘Truly terrifying’: Chinese suppliers flood US and Canada with deadly fentanyl (April 5, 2016)

- Alabama

DEA agents seize pills, possible fentanyl from Shelby Co. apartments (October 13, 2016)

- Alaska

Counterfeit prescription drug found in Alaska contained fentanyl (January 4, 2017)

State crime lab confirms confiscated pill is fentanyl disguised as oxycodone (January 3, 2017)

- Arkansas

Police: Dangerous drug fentanyl showing up in Fort Smith region (August 22, 2016)

- Arizona

32 deaths in metro Phoenix attributed to fake Oxy pills (March 21, 2017)

Powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl makes a deadly mark in Arizona (October 7, 2016)

Deadly counterfeit pills seized in Tucson (June 14, 2016)

- California

Fake Xanax Operator gets 10-year Jail Term (February 10, 2017)

Deadly Counterfeit Opioid Pills Fooling Experts, Killing Californians (November 12, 2016)

The Pill Makers Next Door: How America’s Opioid Crisis Is Spreading (October 5, 2016)

Man from Tijuana accused of smuggling almost 6,000 fentanyl pills (September 22, 2016)

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids sold as counterfeits in deadly new trend (August 26, 2016)

Sacramento’s deadly fentanyl cases yield first known arrest (July 20th, 2016)

3 arrested, accused of manufacturing Fentanyl-laced pills out of SF Sunset District (June 13, 2016)

Santa Cruz County Authorities Warn of Lethal Counterfeit Xanax Containing Fentanyl (May 4, 2016)

Counterfeit Prescription Painkillers for Sale in California Result in Emergency Room Visits (April 26, 2016)

"Thanks to the sixth patient, health officials were able to obtain and test a sample of the drugs. Worryingly, they were the exact physical replica of a typical Norco pill, which contains a combination of the opioid hydrocodone and acetaminophen. They also contained a drug never before seen in these fentanyl fakes, promethazine. While normally used to treat nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness, promethazine is also believed to further increase the high when taken with an opioid." Photo above courtesy of the California Poison Control System, San Francisco Division.

'Norco' Fentanyl Overdose Deaths Rise to 14; Problem Spreads to Bay Area (April 26, 2016)

Man caught smuggling fentanyl at California-Mexico border (April 14, 2016)

Man caught smuggling fentanyl in underwear at California-Mexico border. Suspect was carrying more than 1,000 fentanyl pills (coverage by Maneeza Iqbal at KCRA 3 Sacramento)

Hundreds of Counterfeit Oxycodone Tablets Seized at Port of Entry Contained Ultra-Deadly Fentanyl  (press release, U.S. Department of Justice)

Deaths from Powerful Opiate Fentanyl Rise in Los Angeles County (April 16, 2016)

Another Fentanyl-linked Death, Two More Overdoses Reported in Sacramento Region (April 13, 2016)

Alarming' Rate of Overdoses in Sacramento Area (April 5, 2016)

Six Dead in Sacramento Area from Counterfeit Drugs (March 30, 2016)

Three San Francisco Residents Dead After Ingesting Fake Xanax (March 25, 2016)

Two Santa Cruz County Residents Dead After Taking Counterfeit Xanax (March 25, 2016)

- Delaware

Fatal fentanyl overdoses double in Delaware this year (December 12, 2016)

- Florida

Rare look inside FDLE crime lab tracking deadly, counterfeit pills (November 10, 2016)

9 Investigates dangerous 'kill pills' on Central Florida streets (November 2, 2016)

Overdoses in nearby counties raise concerns about recreational drug use (May 8, 2016)

Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office dealing with more Fentanyl cases (May 5, 2016)

Orange, Osceola top in state for fentanyl, heroin deaths (May 4, 2016)

Deadly Fentanyl-Laced Pills Emerge in Central Florida, Agents Say (April 5, 2016)

Sheriff: ‘Super pill’ is deadly and cheap, becoming big problem (March 22, 2016)

Nine Reported Dead from Counterfeit Xanax (March 21, 2016)

Fentanyl is Being Sold as Xanax in Florida and 9 People Have Died Already (March 30, 2016)

- Georgia

Fake pain pills from China may be more deadly (May 24, 2016)

Urgent warning issued about deadly counterfeit drug (March 10, 2016)

- Illinois

Fentanyl deaths on the rise in Kankakee County (July 5, 2016)

Fentanyl-Related Deaths Spike in Cook County (April 18, 2016)

Counterfeit ‘Xanax’ pills could cause dangerous overdose (February 2016)

- Indiana

How the Pills Are Getting Here and What Can Be Done About It (October 14, 2016)

- Kentucky

Drug that killed Prince tied to Ky death surge (June 14, 2016)

- Maryland

Editorial: Counterfeit drugs could be next scourge in overdose epidemic (May 2, 2016)

Reckless Homicide Case Related to Fentanyl (April 14, 2016)

Carroll County Health Department Warns Street Pills May be Laced with Fentanyl (April 20, 2016)

- Massachusetts

Fentanyl to blame for rising number of overdoses in Massachusetts (November 14, 2016)

Fentanyl Found in Nearly 75 Percent of Massachusetts Overdose Deaths (November 14, 2016)

Taunton woman busted for drugs hid fentanyl in her bra, police said (October 12, 2016)

Lethal 'Oxycodone' Pills on North Shore Actually Fentanyl: Police (September 2, 2016)

Fentanyl: The dangers of this potent “man-made” opioid (August 5, 2016)

Mass. opioid ODs skyrocket (August 4, 2016)

Over half of fatal overdoses associated with Fentanyl (May 3, 2016)

- Michigan

Man overdoses on drug 100 times more potent than heroin, charged with felony (May 4, 2016)

- Minnesota

Counterfeit pills containing Fentanyl on rise in Twin Cities (October 25, 2016)

Disturbing trend: Counterfeit fentanyl (August 22, 2016)

Pills seized from Paisley Park contained illicit fentanyl, same drug that killed Prince (August 21, 2016)

Officials Sound Alarm Over Deadly Synthetic Fentanyl in Minnesota (April 4, 2016)

- New Hampshire

Portsmouth Woman Sentenced For Selling Fentanyl to Overdose Victim (April 27, 2016)

21 Overdose Deaths in New Hampshire this year a result of Fentanyl (April 15, 2016)

- New Jersey

Fentanyl deaths skyrocket in NJ (December 7, 2016)

- New Mexico

Officials investigating 20 deaths from fake oxycodone pills (October 6, 2016)

- New York

Kitchener couple faces U.S. charges for allegedly importing, exporting fentanyl (November 2, 2016)

Powerful opioid fentanyl has contributed to almost half of New York's overdose deaths since July - a shocking rise from a year ago (October 17, 2016)

- North Carolina

Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl contribute to opioid epidemic (July 25, 2016)

Potent Opioid Causing Overdose Deaths in NC (March 23, 2016)

- North Dakota

6 Arrested in Fentanyl Drug Case Involving Overdoses (May 2, 2016)

- Ohio

Fake Oxycodone Pills In Central Ohio Filled With Deadly Fentanyl (January 31, 2017)

Prosecutor warns of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl on the street (January 31, 2017)

7 overdose deaths in 1 day reported in Cleveland-area (September 25, 2016)

Fentanyl Overdose Deaths In Ohio At An All-Time High As Midwest States On Alert Over Opioid ODs (August 25, 2016)

Euclid man accused of having over 900 fentanyl pills pleads guilty to federal charges (August 16, 2016)

Ohio cops eye possible fentanyl after 17 overdoses in 1 day (July 6, 2016)

Fentanyl flooding Ohio, causing overdoses to skyrocket (April 8, 2016)

Euclid man indicted for distribution of fentanyl and crack cocaine; also faces firearm charge (March 1, 2016)

Mislabeled Painkillers "A Fatal Overdose Waiting to Happen" (February 29, 2016)

Deadly "Super-Pill" Found in the Miami Valley (March 30, 2016)

- Oklahoma

“Fentanyl is very, very Powerful,” Dozens of Oklahomans Die from Overdose on Painkiller (May 2, 2016)

- Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania overdose deaths jump 23% in 2015 (July 13, 2016)

AG: Alleged Dealer Caught with Suspected Fentanyl-laced Pills July 21, 2016

Two charged with selling fentanyl-laced pills that led to deaths in Bucks, Montgomery counties (July 5, 2016)

- Rhode Island

Fentanyl surge prompts R.I. health warning (May 10, 2016)

- South Dakota

Fake oxy pills filled with fentanyl pose risk in South Dakota (October 23, 2016)


Fentanyl epidemic hits closer to home (November 14, 2016)

Authorities Charge Five in Fentanyl Case in Tennessee (October 27, 2016)

Fake drugs showing up in Tennessee (July 11, 2016)

PAST 72 HOURS: Massive increase in overdose cases in Murfreesboro (July 7, 2016)

Law enforcement officials warn of fentanyl, fake pills (June 1, 2016)

Tennessee Family Blames Woman's Death on Fake Xanax (March 25, 2016)

Deadly New "Super-Pill" Found in Knoxville (March 31, 2016)

Warning Issued About Counterfeit Prescription Pills (February 8, 2016)n

- Texas

Police ID man shot in Lubbock fentanyl raid linked to other busts (November 7, 2016)

Counterfeit Drug that Possibly Killed Prince Found in Houston (August 24, 2016)

Austin police warn string of overdoses may be related to Fentanyl (May 6, 2016)

- Utah

Millcreek mother loses daughter to powerful opioid police call a 'killer counterfeit' (January 16, 2017)

Opioids online: Utah law enforcement, legislators hope to curb bulk shipments of deadly drugs on the dark web (December 12, 2016)

DEA raids colossal fentanyl operation. Could produce thousands of pills per hour. (November 23, 2016)

Counterfeit prescription pills circulating streets of Davis County, police say (June 14, 2016)

- Virginia

27 people arrested in narcotics operation in Prince William County (August 15, 2016)

- Washington

Police checking to see if Yakima fatal overdose related to recent cases (May 23, 2016)

- Wisconsin

2016 Begins With a New Spike in Deaths Tied to Painkiller Fentanyl (February 19, 2016)