Partnership for Safe Medicines Statement on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Drug Death Totals for 2020

Washington, D.C. (July 21, 2021) - Shabbir Safdar, executive director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM), released the following statement in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) preliminary statistics for the number of Americans whose deaths in 2020 involved drugs:

“The CDC’s preliminary data for 2020 shows that the global pandemic did not stop the crushing wave of drug deaths across this country. In fact, deaths are up by over 30% from 2019, and fentanyl continues to be the driving force. It’s critical that we recognize that this crisis does not discriminate: PSM has been tracking the dangerous proliferation of fake pills with fentanyl through both Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses. We believe that the only successful path to address this crisis is to set aside politics and focus on underutilized tools to address the crisis, including:

  • Broader access to effective addiction treatment options is more essential than ever for all individuals struggling with substance use disorders.
  • Public awareness for everyone, particularly kids, to teach that just because something looks like a legitimate pharmaceutical pill does not mean that it is.
  • Permanent scheduling of fentanyl-related analogues, with appropriate exceptions for legitimate non-clinical and clinical research, to discourage the constant creative workarounds by rogue chemists who attempt to circumvent law enforcement prosecution.

“Despite all the best efforts to stem this tide, deaths from fentanyl have continued to rise, and victims killed by counterfeit pills are trending younger. Traditional approaches have not been enough, and now is the time to find new solutions. So many lives depend on this.”

About the Partnership for Safe Medicines

The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) is a public health group comprised of non-profit organizations that handle medicine from the factory floor to the patient and are committed to the safety of prescription drugs. To learn more, visit