When, in October 2016, The Partnership for Safe Medicines began tracking the incidence of counterfeit prescription pills made with fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, we were startled to find that the pills had been found in 25 states, and had been linked to deaths in 17 of them.
By September 2017 that number had climbed to 40 states, and by April 2018, the pills had been publicly reported in 43 states, with deaths in 22 of them. PSM’s Board President, Dr. Marvin Shepherd, former director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy, noted that the “report paint[ed] a picture of a nation under siege from fake and lethal drugs coming across our borders.”
In January 2019, two and a half years after our first report, we found that counterfeit, fentanyl-laced prescription pills had been found in 46 states— every state except Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas and Nebraska. The number of states reporting associated deaths had risen 71 percent, from 17 in October 2016 to 29 in December 2018.
As Dr. Shepherd told attendees at congressional briefings PSM hosted on January 31, the situation is urgent: “Policymakers at all levels of government need to understand that this is a growing crisis that is taking lives and devastating communities,” said Dr. Shepherd. “Counterfeit medicines – many of which contain doses of fentanyl that can kill instantly – are leaving no part of our country untouched. Major cities and rural areas alike are experiencing devastating effects.”