Authorities In Tennessee Warn That Fake Pills Bought Online Contributing To The Opioid Crisis

Caption: 58,000 counterfeit Xanax pills seized in TN Source: Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office

WATE 6 On Your Side in Knoxville reported that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) stated that counterfeit prescription pills purchased online are a new trend contributing to the ongoing opioid epidemic in their state. The fake pills are made to look like real prescription drugs such as Percocet or Xanax. In an interview with WATE, Assistant Director for the TBI T.J. Jordan warned that “People think they’re getting buying hydrocodone, but they’re actually getting a pill laced with fentanyl. They think they’re getting a good pill, but actually, it’s counterfeit, and it isn’t what it appears to be.”

In TBI’s annual report, authorities warned that these types of cases are increasing statewide. The report said that customers do not know whom they are purchasing from or where the items purchased came from. These purchases have created a new source for drug overdose outbreaks, with these investigations requiring extensive human and technical resources.

Investigators in Tennessee have been fighting to keep counterfeit prescription drugs from harming residents for years. In May 2015, TBI issued a public warning about counterfeit pills made with fentanyl. At that time, Tommy Farmer, TBI Special Agent-in-Charge and Director of the Tennessee Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Task Force called the discovery “disturbing” and said, “It’s just a matter of time until it costs someone their life.”

Sadly, that statement is turned out to be true. On February 8, 2016, TBI issued a second public warning about counterfeit pills. Unfortunately, that warning came too late for 37-year-old Misty Burnett, who died after taking some fake Xanax pills on January 29, 2016. Neither warning prevented 20-year-old Josh Holden from dying after taking counterfeit Xanax pills purchased online in September of that year. To learn about other counterfeit medicine incidents from the Volunteer State, please read PSM’s Tennessee 2018 Infosheet.