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New Report Shows Widespread and Deadly Impact of Illegally-Imported Fentanyl

Partnership for Safe Medicines Analysis Confirms Discovery of Counterfeit Prescription Drugs Made with Fentanyl in 43 States, Deaths in 22 States

Washington (April 10, 2018) – A new report released today by The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) illustrates the growing and deadly toll that illegally-imported fentanyl is having on communities throughout the United States. PSM’s analysis confirms reports of counterfeit medicines made with fentanyl in 43 states, with fentanyl-related deaths confirmed in 22 states. The updated findings follow a report released by PSM last September that found a presence of counterfeit medicines containing fentanyl in 40 states and related deaths in 16 states.


“This updated report shows that the illegally-imported fentanyl problem is getting worse by the day,” said Dr. Marvin Shepherd, chairman of the PSM Board and former director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy.


“The increased number of deaths linked to counterfeit fentanyl pills speaks to the widespread dangers of this illegal drug trade on individuals, families and law enforcement agencies across the country,” Shepherd said following a forum that PSM hosted on Capitol Hill. “A global drug crisis has taken root in our own backyards – the need for action has never been more urgent.”

The epidemic remains a top priority for the federal government – with President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency in October 2017. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) continues its vigilant work uncovering criminal activity related to fentanyl-laced counterfeit drugs and other dangerous substances. In March, federal agents indicted 75 individuals for distributing large quantities of illegal drugs, including illicit fentanyl, throughout the U.S. for the Mexican-based Sinaloa drug cartel.


Canada is also experiencing a fentanyl crisis. In one instance in July 2017, authorities in Edmonton, Alberta, seized 130,000 counterfeit pills containing fentanyl.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data in late December that revealed more than 42,000 individuals died of an opioid-related overdose in 2016. PSM’s new report and the data from the CDC both demonstrate the need for continued, concentrated efforts to keep counterfeit drugs made with fentanyl out of the U.S.


You can access PSM’s full report here, and find a list of our sources here


About the Partnership for Safe Medicines

The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) is a public health group comprised of nearly 70 non-profit organizations that are committed to the safety of prescription drugs and protecting consumers against counterfeit, substandard or otherwise unsafe medicines. To learn more, visit



Farheena Mustafa
(703) 477-4642

September 25, 2017 - 11:30am EDT

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A newly-released report on counterfeit medicines is placing the spotlight on a problem that may be far worse than is commonly believed. According to the review conducted by The Partnership for Safe Medicines, counterfeit prescription drugs containing the deadly ingredient fentanyl, most often illegally imported, have been found in as many as 40 states and are tied to deaths in more than a dozen states.

The report was compiled by reviewing court records, statements by law enforcement and public health agencies, and news reports from a period of more than two years, from April 2015 to September 2017. The report comes on the heels of the seizure of nearly 200 pounds of illegal fentanyl by New York authorities, and has significant law enforcement ramifications given that it indicates that many fatalities have occurred because of illegally-doctored prescription medicines.


“Up until now, it’s been difficult to grasp the scope and pervasiveness of the counterfeit drug problem,” said Dr. Marvin Shepherd, chairman of the PSM Board and former director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy.

“We’ve had a number of examples of counterfeit pill seizures and tragic fentanyl-related deaths, but this report paints a picture of a nation under siege from fake and lethal drugs coming across our borders,” he said.

Examples from the report include:

  • New Hampshire police seized large quantities of fentanyl tablets made to resemble 30-milligram oxycodone pills.
  • Nine people died in Pinellas County, Florida after taking what they believed were Xanax pills, but were actually counterfeits laced with fentanyl.
  • A random traffic stop in North Carolina resulted in the seizure of 5,000 counterfeit OxyContin pills made from fentanyl.
  • In Arizona, a state in which over 30 Maricopa County residents died after taking fentanyl-laced fake prescription drugs, over 30,000 counterfeit pills were seized by federal and state authorities last month.

“There is a global counterfeit drug crisis, and this is a lucrative business for counterfeiters who are buying cheap, illegal fentanyl from Chinese suppliers and shipping it into the U.S., often via the mail,” said Shepherd.

The report recommends the steps that federal authorities should take to address this growing crisis. They include providing U.S. Customs and Border Protection with sufficient resources to combat the increasing flow of counterfeit drugs entering the country, removing bureaucratic barriers so that authorities can destroy packages of verified counterfeits, and forbidding anyone who does not have a license to manufacture medications from purchasing or owning a pill press. It is also necessary to begin screening all presumed opioid overdose cases for toxic compounds to identify cases linked to counterfeit medications.

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