March 20, 2023: Spanberger and Kustoff reintroduce the CAST Act

This week: Federal legislators reintroduced the CAST Act, which would strengthen penalties for using pill presses to make fake medicines. Health Canada warned parents not to buy unapproved cough syrups advertised on Facebook. Mexican soldiers seized almost two million fentanyl pills in Tijuana. News about prosecutions, pill seizures and deaths in 21 U.S. states. 

National news - deterring pill press crime, dangerous cough syrup, a pill death from protonitazene

Pill press machine advertised online, March 20, 2023. 

U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger and David Kustoff reintroduced the Criminalizing Abused Substance Templates (CAST) Act, which would stiffen penalties for those who use pill presses to create and distribute counterfeit drugs. The bill was first introduced in 2019. Learn  why regulating pill presses is important in the fight against dangerous medicine in PSM's 2021 report.

Health Canada warned parents not to give their children two cough syrups, Robikids and Solmux, being advertised on Facebook. The medicines contain carbocysteine, a drug that isn't approved in Canada or the U.S. because of risks such as nausea, diarrhea, allergic reactions and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Parent advocates in Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, and Texas spoke about the deaths of their children from counterfeit pills. One victim was killed by a fake Xanax made of protonitazene instead of legitimate alprazolam.

Prosecutions - fentanyl pill poisonings and deaths; counterfeit Adderall made of meth, fake painkillers and Xanax made with fentanyl

Vando Gvozdarevic of Chelmsford, Massachusetts received a ten-year sentence for drug trafficking. Federal authorities seized 12,500 counterfeit Adderall pills made of methamphetamine and 3,700 counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl from his apartment in 2021.

Ramon Caro, Alex Zaragoza, and Arturo Avila of Riverside, California pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and were sentenced to 10 to 20 years, seven-and-a-half to 15 years, and five to 10 years, respectively. Law enforcement caught them in Bensalem, Pennsylvania with approximately 40,000 fentanyl pills and 11 pounds of methamphetamine in June 2022. A fourth man awaits trial.

Men in Tucson, Arizona, and Bay St Louis and Gulfport, Mississippi were sentenced in separate cases for distributing fentanyl pills.

Fake Adderall pills seized from a dealer supplied by Vando Gvozdarevic (U.S. District Court in Massachusetts)

Kiara Johnson of Fort Wayne, Indiana pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent. Johnson’s two-year-old son died and her three-year-old daughter suffered fentanyl poisoning after taking fake Percocet pills in September 2022.

Minnesota resident Michael Harlan disappeared after being convicted of third-degree murder for selling the fentanyl pills that killed Cole Linnell in March 2021.

Patrick James Hall of San Antonio, Texas pleaded guilty to selling a 20-year-old woman the fake oxycodone made with fentanyl that killed her in October 2022.

Defendants in Carlsbad and San Jose, California; Kokomo, Indiana; Johnson City, Tennessee; and Seattle, Washington were charged with selling counterfeit pills made of fentanyl that killed people.

A couple in East Grand Forks, New Mexico and a man in Beaverton, Oregon are under investigation after toddlers in their care survived fentanyl pill poisoning.

Men in Columbia, Missouri and Houston, Texas were charged in separate cases involving the possession or distribution of counterfeit pills.

Seizures - illegally imported Xanax and Klonopin; counterfeit pills made with fentanyl

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Philadelphia warned about the dangers of purchasing prescription drugs online after they seized thousands of illegally imported Xanax and Klonopin on their way from Kosovo to Maine.

Arizona StateTroopers seized more than 24 pounds of suspected fentanyl pills and over eight pounds of other drugs during a traffic stop in Camp Verde.

Law enforcement seized cocaine and thirteen pounds of M30 fentanyl pills in a vehicle during a traffic stop in Gypsum, Colorado.

With a tip from investigators in Alameda County, California and the help of a police dog named Mando, sheriff’s deputies in Washington County, Oregon seized 150,000 fentanyl pills and three kilos of fentanyl powder.

Stacks of foil blister packs containing pills on a wooden table. A placard in the background reads U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Blister packs of Xanax and Klonopin seized by CBP in Philadelphia in March 2023. (Customs and Border Protection)

Massachusetts State Police confiscated 47,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl when they raided stash houses in Somerset and Fall River.

The search of a vehicle in a parking lot in Spokane Valley, Washington yielded 11,000 suspected fentanyl pills and other drugs.

Pill seizures were also reported in Summerdale, Alabama; Chandler, Arizona; Atwater, California; Loveland, ColoradoBonneville County, Idaho, Muncie, Indiana; East Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Eveleth and Wilmar, Minnesota; Belgrade, Montana; Ellenboro, North Carolina; and Evanston, Wyoming.

International News - fentanyl pills seized in Mexico, a U.K. fake pharmacy scheme, counterfeits in Pakistan

Soldiers with Mexico’s Defense Department found over 1.83 million fentanyl pills and 400 kilos of fentanyl powder at a stash house in Tijuana.

Three residents of the United Kingdom were sentenced to a cumulative 68 months in prison for their roles in an online pharmacy scheme that distributed more than three million doses of prescription-only medicines, such as codeine, tramadol, and diazepam, across the U.K. and Europe.

Drug inspectors seized antibiotics, analgesics, steroids and other counterfeit medicines from a home in Peshawar, Pakistan.