Nationwide Epidemic of Counterfeit Pain Pills Containing Fentanyl Claims Lives in 23 States

On October 23, 2015, the San Francisco Department of Public Health released an urgent warning concerning deadly fentanyl disguised as the low-level anti-anxiety medication Xanax. 3 people in San Francisco died as a result of consuming the fentanyl-laced pills. Since that time there have been reported deaths and overdoses attributable to the fake pills in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Tennessee, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. In July 2016, the DEA released a report warning that fentanyl disguised as Xanax, Norco, and Percocet was causing a global health emergency.

Who: San Francisco Department of Public Health, DEA, state and local law enforcement in all 23 states.

When: October 23, 2015, 2015-2016.

Where: San Francisco, California.

How: 3 San Francisco residents died as a result of fentanyl toxicity. Counterfeit Xanax pills laced with fentanyl were found in their possession.

Additional details: DEA investigations have uncovered that fentanyl and chemical analogues are produced in China. Once manufactured, the drugs are shipped in either pill or powder form to Mexico and then smuggled into the U.S. Fentanyl is 25 to 40 times more powerful than heroin and is used as pain medication for cancer patients who no longer respond to regular analgesics. It is a dangerous drug that is normally given to patients in minute doses using a patch or lollypop. Fentanyl is so powerful that even the patches and lollypops cause an overdose if misused.

Related sources:

**For Immediate Release**- Opioid Overdoses in SF Caused by Counterfeit “Xanax” Pill Containing Fentanyl,”San Francisco Health Department, October 23, 2015

Counterfeit Alprazolam Poses a ‘Major Public Health Threat’,” Medscape, August 8, 2016

Counterfeit Prescription Pills Containing Fentanyls: A Global Threat,”  DEA Intelligence Brief, July 2016

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

“Pills seized from Paisley Park contained illicit fentanyl, same drug that killed Prince,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 21, 2016

Fake Xanax can be a killer ,” CBS News, August 10, 2016

Pennsylvania overdose deaths jump 23% in 2015 ,” ABC27, July 13, 20165

Fake drugs showing up in Tennessee ,” The Rogersville Review, July 11, 2016

Drug that killed Prince tied to Ky death surge,” Courier-Journal, June 14, 2016

Deadly counterfeit pills seized in Tucson ,” Tucson News Now, June 14, 2016

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Santa Cruz County Authorities Warn of Lethal Counterfeit Xanax Containing Fentanyl,” San Jose Mercury News, May 4, 2016

Editorial: Counterfeit drugs could be next scourge in overdose epidemic,” Carroll County Times, May 2, 2016.

Counterfeit Prescription Painkillers for Sale in California Result in Emergency Room Visits,” Medical Daily, April 26, 2016

‘Norco’ Fentanyl Overdose Deaths Rise to 14; Problem Spreads to Bay Area,” Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2016

Deadly Fentanyl Trade Linked to Chinese Companies,” NPR, April 21, 2016

Fentanyl-Related Deaths Spike in Cook County,” Daily Herald, April 18, 2016

Fentanyl flooding Ohio, causing overdoses to skyrocket ,” Telegraph-Forum, April 8, 2016

‘Alarming’ rate of overdoses in Sacramento area,” CNN, April 6, 2016

Tainted painkillers cause 6 deaths in California,” USA Today, March 30, 2016

Fentanyl is Being Sold as Xanax in Florida and 9 People Have Died Already,” News.MIC, March 30, 2016

2 fatal overdoses in Santa Cruz County blamed on fake Xanax,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 4, 2015

Three deaths now may be tied to counterfeit Xanax in San Francisco,” KRON4, October 27, 2015

Fake Xanax blamed for woman’s death,” CBS News, October 26, 2015