Counterfeit Medicine News for the Week of May 18, 2020

Ongoing coronavirus fraud and counterfeits:

A bioethicist at the University of Minnesota warned about businesses promoting unproven stem cell treatments for COVID-19.

Fake COVID-19 test kits

Fake COVID-19 test kits seized in El Paso, May 2020 (Source: CBP)

After investigating last week, Washington state reported that identity thieves have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits.

The Colorado Attorney General's Office is investigating approximately 400 price gouging complaints related to the pandemic. 

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at Texan ports of entry announced seizing a thousand counterfeit COVID-19 Rapid Tests on their way into Mexico, as well as thousands of substandard face masks, mask filters and bottles of hand sanitizer. Health Canada issued a recall of KN95 respirators which failed to meet adequate standards. 

Because counterfeit and unapproved equipment continues to be such a problem, we are sharing these articles about how to recognize and avoid counterfeit N95 respirators and fake test kits.


The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has released Rogue Online Pharmacies in the Time of Pandemic: Capitalizing on Misinformation and Fear, which focuses on how existing criminal networks that run illegal online pharmacies are exploiting COVID-19. In it, NABP called on internet companies to “implement long-term policy changes that will have a significant impact on patient safety,” including requiring that domain name sellers be required to lock and suspend domain names used for illegal activities.  To learn more about this issue, consult PSM’s May 6, 2020 video. You can submit a letter to your legislators on the subject using the web form on PSM’s home page.

In this week’s video, PSM examines Maine’s state importation program application to the Department of Health and Human Services. Watch the video and read a deeper analysis.

Other counterfeit news:

It’s been a bad week in counterfeit pill news.

Santa Clara, California reported that fentanyl poisoning deaths have nearly tripled from January to May compared to the same period in 2019, in large part because of counterfeit oxycodone.

Blue green pill with an M on it.

Counterfeit oxycodone seized on the Nez Perce Reservation, May 2020 (Source: Lewis-Clark Valley News)

The Nez Perce Tribal Police Department issued a warning about counterfeit oxycodone pills.

CBP agents near Amado, Arizona seized 8.2 ounces of fentanyl pills. In Wilmington, Delaware, police shut down a pill press operation and seized 3,000 grams of powdered fentanyl. Federal courts charged a MInneapolis resident with allegedly manufacturing and selling counterfeit, fentanyl-laced oxycodone pills and a Martinez, California resident with allegedly manufacturing counterfeit alprazolam pills in a Concord warehouse.

Men in Paso Robles, CaliforniaBethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Park CIty, Utah have been charged in separate cases for allegedly selling counterfeit fentanyl pills that killed people. Law enforcement in Minnesota also reported deaths in Mankato and Anoka County.

A Prescott Valley, Arizona couple spoke about their daughter Hannah's death by fentanyl poisoning after she took a single pill on March 22nd.

Even as we are dealing with the pandemic, PSM is keeping a steady eye on public reports of dangerous counterfeit drugs. Check back for next week’s summary.

Tell Congress to give law enforcement the power to identify scam domain owners and get them off the Internet.

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