Counterfeit Drugs Harm Real People
We're Collecting Their Stories
Protecting the safety of America's drug supply is about protecting human life. When we compromise the security of America's drug supply, we endanger patients. Sometimes people forget that these policy debates affect real people, but we at PSM never do.
20-year-old Joshua Holton died of fentanyl poisoning in Tennessee after he took Xanax he’d bought online. He’d seen a TED talk online that suggested that users reviews were a reliable way to judge the quality of the drugs they were selling—but they weren’t.
Life-threatening counterfeit drugs taught Rick Roberts that medicine safety can’t be taken for granted. Rick Roberts, a professor at the University of San Francisco and a member of The Partnership for Safe Medicines’ Advisory Board, began thinking about the problem of medicine safety after he received two different counterfeit versions of Serostim (human growth hormone)…
In February 2002, 16-year-old Long Island, New York resident Timothy Fagan needed an emergency liver transplant. The transplant was lifesaving, but Timothy suffered from terrible anemia after the surgery, and his doctor prescribed him a weekly injection of Epogen to treat it. The Fagans found that their son’s injections were incredibly painful, and after eight terrible weeks they learned why: the Epogen they had received was counterfeit.
Blain Padgett earned a full athletic scholarship and a defensive end position with the Rice University Owls in 2015 through persistence, vision and sheer hard work, but his dream of playing college football was cut short on March 2, 2018, when he was found dead in his apartment. Investigation showed that Blain’s cause of death was fentanyl poisoning: the hydrocodone pill he’d taken from a friend for his shoulder pain turned out to be a counterfeit laced with carfentanil.
Eric Highsmith Griffin of Lexington, South Carolina died of fentanyl poisoning on May 10, 2016 after taking a Xanax for anxiety. He had no way of knowing that the medicine he had purchased from a friend of a friend was not just like the medicine he’d been prescribed. He would never have risked his life or caused suffering to his children and family if he had known that a non-opioid anti-anxiety medication could really be a counterfeit poison pill.
32-year-old Grand Junction resident Ashley Romero was the cherished eldest daughter of her close-knit Colorado family. With her warm heart and brilliant, 1,000 watt smile, she made friends everywhere she went. Ashley died on June 11, 2018, after taking half of an oxycodone pill. The pill was fake and actually made with fentanyl.
In a brutal month spanning March 23 to April 23, 2016, fourteen people in the Sacramento area died of suspected drug overdoses, and 38 others were poisoned. At the beginning authorities had no idea why there was a sudden spike in overdose deaths and suspected “contaminated drugs.” They would not know until the month was out and the recovered pills had been analyzed that these deaths were caused by counterfeit pills made with deadly fentanyl. One of those who was lost was a 28-year-old father of three, Jerome Butler.
The evening of November 29, 2016, Atlanta-area realtor Jennifer Bryant Hodge came home to find her 23-year-old son Robbie collapsed in the bathroom. EMTs rushed Robbie to the hospital, where he was declared brain dead. Hodge would learn that her son had taken a counterfeit Xanax that contained a fatal dose of benzodiazepines.
Maggie Crowley managed an Outback in Royal Palm Beach, Florida until September 1, 2016, when she was killed by a counterfeit painkiller she got from a coworker. Almost two years later, her close-knit family is still reeling from the loss.
23-year-old Joe Patterson was a hard worker and a student, an expectant father and a beloved son. On February 15, 2015, he died after taking a painkiller he didn’t know was a counterfeit made with fentanyl.
The evening of October 26, 2015, twenty-nine-year-old Aptos, California resident Tosh Ackerman took a benedryl and part of a Xanax pill to help him sleep. He never woke up, and his girlfriend found him dead the next day. Ackerman died because the Xanax he took was counterfeit. It contained a fatal dose of a powerful synthetic opioid called fentanyl.
Arizona resident Betty Hunter died of lung cancer, but how much longer would she have lived if her oncologist had not treated her with counterfeit Avastin? A recent Danish documentary tells the tragic story of Arizona grandmother Betty Hunter, who in 2011 sought treatment for her lung cancer at an oncology clinic in Chandler Arizona.…
Marcia Bergeron died in British Columbia in December 2006 from heavy metal poisoning caused by the prescription medications she had purchased from a fake online pharmacy. Friends and family were shocked, because Marcia’s health was robust, and she thought she was suffering from the common flu.
In March 2002, oncology nurses in Missouri at discovered that their patient, Maxine Blount, had been taking Procrit that was only one-twentieth the strength it should have been. The counterfeit did not treat her anemia, leading to delays between chemotherapy infusions that allowed her cancer to advance much more rapidly. She died in October 2002.
In 2005, her brother testified before Congress: if her drugs had been genuine “she would have lived longer…experienced much less pain and suffering, and have been able to spend more time with her family.”