May 13, 2024: Fentanyl pill seizures tripled from 2021 to 2023, says the DEA

Major Stories

DEA seizures of fentanyl pills tripled between 2021 and 2023. The CDC narrowed the scope of the counterfeit Botox outbreak to nine states. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released its 2024 National Drug Threat Assessment on May 9. The report, which summarizes illicit drug threats and trafficking trends in the U.S., includes discussions of counterfeit prescription pills made with fentanyl, methamphetamine and xylazine. The DEA seized 79 million fentanyl pills in 2023—three times the number seized in 2021—and continued to find the veterinary tranquilizer xylazine in a little over five percent of the pills. The agency also suggested that larger seizures of Adderall and MDMA tablets made with methamphetamine show that such pills have become “an established and accepted form of the drug.”  Download the report here.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) excluded seven cases reported in Washington and Nebraska from its ongoing investigation of illnesses linked to counterfeit Botox treatments; they were determined to be suffering adverse effects from legitimate Botox. The agency is still investigating 15 cases that happened in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Texas between November 2023 and March 31, 2024.

Domestic News

Philly CBP intercepted 10,000 alprazolam pills hidden in yarn.  An Illinois couple was sentenced for distributing imported controlled substance pills. Pill presses in five states.

CBP officers found 10,060 Alprazolam pills concealed inside yarn spools.

Customs and Border Protection officers in Philadelphia seized 10,060 alprazolam pills concealed inside spools of yarn on their way from the Netherlands to an address in Brooklyn, New York.

Christina and Wesley Noonan of Bloomington, Illinois were sentenced to 70 and 48 months, respectively, for mailing more than 250,000 imported controlled substance pills, including tablets they logged as tramadol, zolpidem, cathinone, Adderall, lorazepam, hydrocodone, and Percocet, to locations in all 50 states. It isn’t clear, however, whether the pills they sold were what they seemed to be: a search of their home yielded more than 1,700 “Adderall” pills made with a fentanyl analogue.

Collin Edwards of Largo, Maryland received a 14-year federal prison sentence for insurance fraud and for leading a group that used stolen identities to rent apartments where they manufactured counterfeit oxycodone pills mixed with fentanyl. Edwards is the 6th and final defendant to be sentenced in this case.

Rhode Island resident Erik Ventura pleaded guilty for his role in a ring that made fake oxycodone pills made of fentanyl and distributed them in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Texas and North and South Carolina. During his arrest law enforcement seized pressed fentanyl pills, approximately 20 kilograms of powdered fentanyl, two pill presses and other pill making supplies.

Joel Antonio Villegas of South Gate, California pleaded guilty to importing illicit drugs from Mexico and distributing them throughout the U.S. using cars with hidden trap compartments. Villegas also operated a polydrug stash house that contained packaging materials, pill presses, drug ledgers, and money counters.

Two Massachusetts men are facing drug charges for allegedly making counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl, counterfeit Adderall pills made with methamphetamine, and counterfeit Xanax pills made with clonazolam. One of the men allegedly received a die stamp set to make pills in the shape of oxycodone.

Law enforcement seized kilogram quantities of fentanyl, xylazine and eutylone; pill binders; a pill press; and firearms after intercepting a package containing two kilograms of methamphetamine from a package shipping company in Spartanburg County.

International News

Americans developed dangerous infections after non-FDA approved stem cell treatments in Mexico. Canada is prosecuting alleged counterfeit pill traffickers.

The CDC’s May 9 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report focused on two arthritis patients and a multiple sclerosis patient who developed treatment resistant m. abscessus infections after receiving non-FDA approved stem cell injections in Guadalajara and Baja California, Mexico. The same bacteria was found in adulterated Mesofrance that sickened a woman who bought it on TikTok.

Kenya's Pharmacy and Poisons Board warned about fake Herceptin in May 2024. (Source: Twitter)

In Canada, the British Columbia Supreme Court indicted three men allegedly involved in a counterfeit pill trafficking ring following the seizure of more than 350,000 counterfeit Adderall, Xanax, Percocet, OxyContin and oxycodone pills that contained carfentanil, and a mixture of methamphetamine, benzodiazepine, heroin and MDMA in 2023. Law enforcement also seized precursor chemicals and raw materials that could have produced an additional 450,000 illicit pills.

Kenya’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board warned that a counterfeit version of the breast cancer drug Herceptin had been found in circulation.