MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The United States Drug Enforcement Administration issues a public safety alert, the first in six years, after seizing an unprecedented number of counterfeit pills containing the deadly substance fentanyl.
Counterfeit pills, mass-produced by criminal drug rings, are designed to resemble prescription pain relievers and are killing unsuspecting Americans at an unprecedented rate.
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Counterfeit pills look like oxycodone (OxycontinÂ®, PercocetÂ®), hydrocodone (VicodinÂ®) and alprazolam (XanaxÂ®); or stimulants such as amphetamines (AdderallÂ®).
They are sold on the streets and online, and the DEA claims these fake pills contain fentanyl or methamphetamine because they are cheaper to make.
DEA lab tests reveal a dramatic increase in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose. A lethal dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.
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This warning does not apply to medicines you get from pharmacies prescribed by your doctor. These are counterfeit drugs that are bought on the streets, online or handed out at parties attended by many young people.
The federal government says not to trust a pill just because it looks like something you get from the doctor.
More than 9.5 million fake pills were seized by the DEA in all US states this year, which is more than the past two years combined and they are responsible for more than 93,000,000 deaths last year.
The vast majority of counterfeit pills imported into the United States are produced in Mexico, and China supplies chemicals for the manufacture of fentanyl to Mexico.
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Tips for avoiding counterfeit prescription drugs:
- Pay attention to appearance: Carefully examine the packaging and lot numbers of prescription drugs and be aware of any changes from one prescription to another.
- Check with your pharmacist or doctor if your prescription medication looks suspicious.
- Tell your pharmacist and doctor immediately if your medicine is causing unwanted side effects or if your condition does not improve.
- Be careful when buying drugs on the Internet. Do not buy drugs from unauthorized online distributors or those that sell drugs without a prescription. Reputable online pharmacies will have a seal of approval called the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS), provided by the Association of Boards of Pharmacy in the United States.
- Be aware that product promotions or cost reductions and other “specials” may be associated with the promotion of counterfeit products.