January 8, 2024: DHS reports a surge in pill press seizures

Major Stories

Homeland Security seized over 1,800 pill presses in October and November 2023. The FDA warned Amazon not to sell supplements made with undeclared pharmaceuticals and issued another warning about toxic yellow oleander.

Pill press seizures in the United States

States in pink indicate a pill press seizure history: law enforcement has found a least one pill press making illicit pills. Click the red triangles for specific seizure incidents, January 2023 to the present.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seized over 1,800 pill presses in the first two months of fiscal year 2024 (October and November 2023), an increase over the previous fiscal year, which saw 3,600 seizures over 12 months. The surge reflects federal efforts to disrupt the fentanyl trade and raises concerns about drug counterfeiters making fake medicines inside U.S. borders. Learn more about pill presses: Illicit Pill Presses Are Still A Threat.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned Amazon.com to stop distributing supplements made with undeclared sildenafil and tadalafil, the main ingredients in Viagra and Cialis. The unlisted ingredients can cause dangerous reactions, particularly in patients who take medicine that contains nitrates.

FDA also warned consumers that supplements labeled as tejocote root for sale on Amazon, Etsy and other websites were actually made of yellow oleander, a toxic plant that can cause vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, abdominal pain, cardiac changes and death.

International News

Canadian authorities are concerned about drug shortages. Authorities in India, Istanbul and Pakistan battle counterfeit medicines.

After the FDA’s January 5th approval of Florida’s wholesale Canadian prescription drug importation proposal, Health Canada reassured residents that it would enforce a November 2020 interim order to restrict exports of drugs that are at risk of shortage. Learn about the challenges of importing drugs from Canada.

Authorities in India and Pakistan continue to dismantle counterfeit drug operations selling residents a range of fake therapeutic medicines.

Law enforcement in Istanbul arrested 24 people alleged to have illegally exported counterfeit medicines, including pregabalin, to Iranian citizens between 2020 and 2022.

Canada issued an immediate response when the FDA approved regulations for wholesale drug importation in 2020. 

Domestic News

An American warned about fake Ozempic. A California judge ruled that families of fentanyl pill victims can sue Snap.  

A pill press seized in December 2023. ((Spokane County Sheriff's Office))  

A Chicago, Illinois man with diabetes had a seizure and went into a coma after injecting himself with an Ozempic pen that turned out to be a counterfeit filled with insulin. His experience is being reported more and more often as drug counterfeiters penetrate the market for GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic and Wegovy.

The Los Angeles Times reported buying counterfeit versions of the ADHD drugs Adderall and Vyvanse made with methamphetamine at pharmacies in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The medicines were sold in bottles that painstakingly copied legitimate packaging.

A California judge ruled that Snap Inc. cannot use section 230 to dodge lawsuits related to children buying fentanyl via Snapchat because the suits focus on the company’s product and business decisions rather than content posted by drug dealers. Dozens of families who have lost teens to counterfeit pills purchased on the app.

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report revealed that three young adults in the Chicago area suffered from seizures, heart damage, coma and persistent hearing and neurological deficits after overdosing on counterfeit alprazolam pills made with bromazolam in February 2023.

Men in Spokane, Washington and Whitman, Massachusetts are facing charges for running separate counterfeit pill operations after law enforcement seized pill presses and illicit drugs in pill and powder form on their properties.