The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) began to track reports of counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in October 2015. In the past two years, the pills have spread across the country, devastating communities, and leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. Recently KMBC News reports that Kansas officials have now found deadly fake pills made with fentanyl, making it the 47th state to do so.
According to KMBC News’ reporting, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation in Kansas City, Kansas led to the seizure of around 1,500 counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl. Federal agents arrested multiple individuals for their roles in this drug operation. In addition to the drugs, agents also seized several guns. Erik Smith, the assistant special agent in charge for the regional DEA office, warned that drug dealers “are showing up with poison. They’re armed, and they’re prepared to kill to defend their trade.”
PSM spoke with Kansas Pharmacists Association Executive Director Aaron Dunkel about the discovery of counterfeit fentanyl pills in his state. In response, Dunkel stressed the importance of America’s closed drug supply chain: “Good supply chain regulation has historically protected Americans from counterfeits. But criminals using pill presses both within America and abroad, as well as well-intentioned but dangerous policies such as foreign drug importation, puts patients at risk. We must all work together to educate the public that these pills are deadly. In this case, it is because they contain an ingredient that can kill you in small doses. In many other cases, they are placebos that leave you at the mercy of your disease.”
To date, the only three states in which PSM has not documented counterfeit pills containing fentanyl are Hawaii, Nebraska, and Delaware. Deaths have been confirmed in 32 states.