January 4, 2022: Fentanyl deaths rise; 13% in western states are from fake pills
A recent analysis for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that fentanyl is the leading cause of death for adults ages 18-45 in the United States. Across all ages 64% of drug deaths between May 2020 and April 2021 were the result of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, sometimes combined with stimulants. In western states, more than 13% of fentanyl deaths involved counterfeit pills. Read the entire report here.
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Senators Amy Klobuchar and Marco Rubio introduced S. 3399, the Domain Reform for Unlawful Drug Sellers (DRUGS) Act, which would establish a process to lock and suspend websites, including illegal online pharmacies, that sell drugs illegally.
The Biden Administration issued an executive order on December 15th that empowers federal agencies to more effectively target foreign drug traffickers like those supplying dangerous counterfeit pills. The same day it was signed, the Treasury Department blocked the U.S. assets of chemical suppliers in China and criminal drug organizations in Mexico and Brazil.
During an appearance on "Face the Nation," DEA administrator Anne Milgram reported that the DEA seized 20 million fake pills made with fentanyl in 2021.
In the South
Sheriff’s deputies in Caldwell County, North Carolina charged a Lenoir man with drug trafficking after seizing 3,500 fake pills made with fentanyl during a search of his home.
In Chester County, South Carolina, authorities charged three people with selling pills made with fentanyl. In nearby Lancaster County, the coroner warned that she had seen an uptick in deaths from fake benzodiazepines disguised as Xanax and Valium.
- The Bastrop County Sheriff's Office seized 2,200 counterfeit Oxycontin pills containing fentanyl.
- Denton Police arrested twin brothers in Carrollton and seized almost nine pounds of pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.
- A Texarkana man was charged with allegedly providing fentanyl pills that poisoned an 18-year-old.
Authorities in El Dorado, Arkansas warned about a significant increase in fentanyl poisonings, including several resulting from fake prescription medication.
In the Northeast
Vimoon Sortsoy of Lowell, Massachusetts pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy after selling 400 grams of counterfeit Adderall made with methamphetamine to a cooperating witness.
A U.S. District Court prohibited New Jersey-based Natural Solutions Foundation from selling “nano silver” products that they claimed would prevent, treat or cure COVID-19.
In the Midwest
The DEA’s Chicago Division announced that it arrested 40 people in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin during a three-and-a-half-month drug investigation that also resulted in the seizure of 68,250 counterfeit pills that contained fentanyl.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that two University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee freshmen—Cade Reddington and Logan Rachwal—died of fentanyl poisoning in 2021 after taking pills that they thought were Percocet. Like so many parents across the country, their mothers are working to raise awareness about the pills.
In Michigan, the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Police Department reported multiple fentanyl poisonings as a result of counterfeit Percocet and warned that residents should assume that any pill that did not come from a pharmacy contained fentanyl.
Kirtland, Ohio residents Ernest Corrigan and Andrew Householder were sentenced to 11 and 6-and-three-quarter years, respectively, for manufacturing counterfeit Adderall pills that contained methamphetamine.
In Minnesota, Minneapolis resident Fowzi Abdinasir Elmi received a 60-month sentence for possession and distribution of fentanyl pills after being involved in three different incidents that involved the pills between June 2019 and September 2020.
Police in Riley County, Kansas warned about six fentanyl poisonings from fake prescription pills in the past two weeks.
In the Mountain West
Police in Scottdale, Arizona and the DEA’s Phoenix Division reported the seizure of 1.7 million fentanyl pills on December 16th.
A man in Boise, Idaho faces drug trafficking charges after Ada County Sheriff's deputies found 70 fentanyl pills in his car and another 1,000 among other drugs in his home.
Meanwhile, Idaho’s state police captain sounded the alarm about the high number of fentanyl poisoning deaths caused by counterfeit pills in the state.
- Denver resident Omar Rivas-Saenz received a more than 14-year prison sentence for his role in a drug conspiracy that distributed illicit drugs, including fentanyl pills.
- A high school student in Durango died, and two more were hospitalized after they reportedly smoked prescription pain pills suspected to be fakes made with fentanyl.
- Two Colorado state senators announced a forthcoming bill, which would dedicate $450 million toward addiction treatment and investigations of fentanyl dealers and fentanyl deaths.
In the Pacific West
- A 39-year-old Spokane resident was charged with selling counterfeit oxycodone pills after his 17-month-old daughter died of fentanyl poisoning on December 7th.
- The Seattle Police Department (SPD), Homeland Security Investigations, and the DEA arrested four alleged drug traffickers and seized more than 4800 counterfeit prescription pills suspected to contain fentanyl and more than 500 grams of other drugs. SPD seized 650,000 fentanyl pills in 2021—ten times more than they seized in 2020.
- Wenatchee police seized almost 1,600 fentanyl pills during a traffic stop.
- Sacramento resident Christopher Kegan Williams received a two-and-a-half-year sentence for arranging the sale of approximately 480 counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl between September 2019 and March 2020.
- Mexican citizen Jesus Adrian Pena-Gamez pleaded guilty to fentanyl distribution. He and a co-defendant tried to sell 15,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl in a Bakersfield parking lot.
- A man in Riverside, California was charged with selling the counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl that killed 19-year-old Alexandra Capelouto in Temecula in December 2019.
- A federal grand jury indicted an 18-year-old Los Angeles man for allegedly providing fentanyl-laced pills to a 15-year-old who died after taking them in July 2021.
- El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents at the Highway 86 Checkpoint seized nearly 600 fentanyl pills and some methamphetamine hidden inside a speaker in the trunk of a Mercedes-Benz.
- Rich Lee in San Francisco and Dave and Rita Palet in San Diego shared the stories of their sons’ deaths from counterfeit pills.
- The Rocklin Unified School District, which lost Whitney High School senior Zachary Didier to a counterfeit pill in December 2020, hosted a parent information night about the dangers of drugs and social media.
- Authorities in San Benito County, California reported a spike in fentanyl poisonings linked to counterfeit pills.
Canadian authorities charged six residents of Richmond, British Columbia with operating three drug labs. Law enforcement seized three pill presses and 108 kilograms of illicit drugs during the investigation.
The World Health Organization warned that falsified Soliris, a medicine that treats blood diseases, had been found in Argentina, Estonia, India, and Uruguay and that falsified Combiart, a malaria drug, was circulating in Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, and Mali.
Police in West Lothian, Scotland seized pill presses and drug paraphernalia used to manufacture millions of illicit etizolam pills.
Authorities in West Yorkshire, England warned that fake anti-epileptic medication and sleeping pills may have caused two deaths and two hospitalizations.
The National Police in Madrid, Spain seized 300,000 COVID-19 antigen tests that had not been reviewed to be certain that they met safety standards.
Journalist Priyanka Pulla wrote that tainted remesdivir circulated in five Indian states during the country's May 2021 COVID-19 surge, further sickening patients.
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration warned about substandard and counterfeit ivermectin imports.