September 19, 2022: Americans must be wary of fake Adderall

This week: Media reports of Adderall shortages have surfaced just as fake versions of the drug are surging. Safety advocates urge patients to only buy medicines from licensed U.S. pharmacies. Gambia investigates  deaths of dozens of children potentially poisoned by fake paracetamol syrup.  U.S. senators investigate the role of social media platforms in teen counterfeit pill deaths. More counterfeit pill events in 17 states and Canada. 

A fake online pharmacy NABP identified in March. Watch Narcotics for Sale to learn more.

With media outlets reporting that large chain drug stores in the U.S. have been unable to fill Adderall prescriptions, Americans should be even more alert to the possibility that online storefronts that may look legitimate are selling counterfeit Adderall.

The drug is a counterfeiting mainstay: members of the Rhode Island DEA Drug Task Force seized 660,500 methamphetamine pills disguised as Adderall from a Cumberland, Rhode Island home just last March, and fake versions of the drug have turned up in over 20 states in recent years.

PSM Advisory Board member Rick Roberts, whose personal experience with counterfeit HIV medicine has led him to be a safe medicines advocate, spoke to Vice about fake online pharmacies operating with near impunity outside of U.S. borders. ADAP Advocacy Association CEO Brandon Macsata shared his public campaign urging HIV patients to check that their drugs are legitimate.

Authorities in the Gambia suspended the importation and sales of paracetamol syrup because they suspect that counterfeit or tainted versions of the analgesic have poisoned dozens of children under five over the last three months. The situation recalls 2007, when hundreds of people in China and Panama died after suppliers substituted an industrial solvent used in antifreeze for glycerin used to make cough syrup and fever medication.

Police in Karachi, Pakistan shut down a counterfeit medicines operation and confiscated fake drugs and equipment. The raid was part of a county-wide crackdown on illegally produced medicines.

Counterfeit pills across the country

S.4858 would require online services to report the unlawful distribution of controlled substances.

On September 13, eight U.S. senators released a letter addressed to the CEOs of Instagram, TikTok, Snap Inc., and YouTube demanding to know how the companies are working to prevent the sale of fentanyl-laced pills to teenagers and young adults on their social media platforms.

Kansas Senator Roger Marshall, M.D also introduced S.4858, a bill that would require online service providers to report the illegal sale and distribution of controlled substances to the U.S. Attorney General. The bill is named for Cooper Davis, a Kansas teenager who died of fentanyl poisoning after taking half of a fake Percocet pill in August 2021. Davis acquired the pill from a friend who bought it from a drug dealer on Snapchat.

In the Pacific West

Two Los Angeles teenagers were arrested in connection with counterfeit Percocet pills made with fentanyl that killed one Bernstein High School student and sent another one to the hospital.

Hugo Gutierrez Rodriguez, of Yakima, Washington, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Rodriguez was one of several men who were dealing meth and fentanyl pills on the Rocky Boy's Reservation.

In the Mountain West

Customs and Border Protection officers at Arizona’s Nogales Port of Entry made two separate seizures of more than 300,000 fentanyl pills.

Chad P. Blackmore of Cortez, New Mexico was sentenced to 14 years in prison for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. Police found about 750 fentanyl pills disguised as OxyContin in late October 2021 and caught him with 1,000 fentanyl pills several days later.

A man in West Valley City, Utah was charged with drug trafficking after law enforcement found 5,000 fentanyl pills and 96 pounds of other illicit drugs in his storage unit.

Pills seized in a search of Blackmore's home, October 2021

In the Midwest

Officers in Wichita, Kansas arrested three alleged fentanyl dealers after a search of their home turned up 1,000 suspected fentanyl pills, powders, drug paraphernalia and firearms. They also seized an additional 1,000 fentanyl pills during an unrelated traffic stop.

Zakk L. Biggs, of Omaha, Nebraska, received a 68-month federal prison sentence for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. DEA agents intercepted a package of 2,000 fentanyl pills on their way to him in November 2021.

Seizure photo from LaCrosse, Wisconsin bust in June 2022. (La Crosse Police Department)

Another Omaha resident, Mayra Rendon, received a 210-month sentence for her part in a drug ring that sold thousands of fentanyl pills and methamphetamine in the Omaha and Council Bluffs, Iowa areas.

A LaCrosse, Wisconsin man was indicted on federal drug and firearms charges after the La Crosse Police Department seized a pill press, 135 pounds of pressed counterfeit Xanax, a pound of fentanyl, a pound of counterfeit Adderall that tested positive for meth, and other illicit drugs.

Police arrested a woman in Waunakee, Wisconsin after they found counterfeit prescription pills made with fentanyl in her residence.

In the South

Little Rock, Arkansas resident Rhea Witcher pleaded guilty to selling between 25,000 and 30,000 oxycodone pills containing fentanyl with her husband over an 18-month period.

Cassandra Flowers of Rogers, Arkansas shared the story of her daughter Cassie’s fentanyl poisoning death. Cassie unknowingly took a counterfeit Xanax pill in 2020. Families in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas also shared their losses.

A man in Fountain, North Carolina was charged with selling the counterfeit Xanax pills that killed a 34-year-old woman in April 2021. The pills he allegedly sold were made with Clonazolam, a benzodiazepine that is not approved for medical use in the United States.

Law enforcement in Tulsa, Oklahoma arrested seven suspects for their alleged roles in a drug trafficking operation that sold cocaine, fentanyl and hundreds of thousands of fake Xanax pills made of methamphetamine and clonazolam.

A Greenwood, South Carolina woman was arrested for allegedly providing the counterfeit pills made with fentanyl that killed a man in June 2022.

Daniel Lee Burmeister of El Paso, Texas received a 210-month federal prison sentence after a search of his residence in October 2021 yielded illegally-possessed firearms and fentanyl pills.

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas charged 25 people after a drug bust at a recording studio in Dallas yielded illicit drugs, including fake pharmaceutical pills; 37 firearms; and more than $300,000.

Police in Wichita Falls, Texas arrested a man for the alleged possession of more than 500 counterfeit pills containing fentanyl.

Zachary Ryan Hutton, of Marion, Virginia, will spend 42 months in federal prison for selling approximately 30,000 fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone in Southwest Virginia. The U.S. Postal Service Inspectors intercepted a package full of the fake pills addressed to Hutton in June 2021.

In the Northeast

Find the most recent news about counterfeit medicines in Massachusetts via RRS feed on our Massachusetts state page.

Daniel Donald of Worcester, MA received a 16-year federal prison sentence for drug trafficking and firearms offenses. Police found 200 fentanyl pills and more than a kilogram of other drugs when they searched two apartments leased by Donald in 2017.

Former Lawrence, Massachusetts resident Luis Manuel Rodriguez Then pleaded guilty to leading a conspiracy to sell narcotics between October 2018 and March 2019. Law enforcement seized kilogram quantities of illicit drugs from Rodriguez Then’s residence and a stash house after his organization sold law enforcement counterfeit pills that contained fentanyl, heroin, or cocaine on three occasions.

A second Lawrence resident, Miguel Mejia, pleaded guilty to dealing ghost guns and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. A search of his residence in December 2020 yielded a pistol, ammunition and magazines; a pill press and pill stamping set; and five baggies of narcotics cutting agents.

The Bristol County, Massachusetts District Attorney's Office charged a Falls River man with drug trafficking after they seized pills believed to contain fentanyl, a kilo of suspected fentanyl powder, and other drugs, from his home.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania resident Dwayne Sherman was convicted of money laundering and drug trafficking conspiracy charges. Los Angeles, California police found two kilos of cocaine and 15,000 pills, some of which contained methamphetamine, in Sherman’s car in April 2016.

International

Canadian mounties seized 3,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl and five kilograms of cocaine during Project Badminton, a 30-month investigation of a criminal network that trafficked humans and drugs across the country.

Police in Calgary, Alberta announced the seizure of more than $4.5 million worth of drugs and almost a million dollars in cash at 15 sites between August 24 and September 7. Investigators are still cataloging the evidence, but estimate that the seizure included 3,489 suspected fentanyl pills, 45.7 kilograms of unknown powders, and more than 43 kilograms of other illicit drugs.