Authorities Seize Fake Drugs with Lethal Doses of Meth and Fentanyl

Adderall pills containing methamphetamine and oxycodone pills containing fentanyl have been among the fake pills the DEA and investigators have confiscated.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said there is a sharp nationwide increase in the lethality of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills even as authorities crack down on counterfeit drug rings. Popular counterfeit medications include Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts) and oxycodone.

The DEA Laboratory has found that, of the fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills analyzed in 2022, six out of 10 now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, the agency said in a news release. This is an increase from DEA’s previous announcement in 2021 that four out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills were found to contain a potentially lethal dose.

“We’ve seen an enormous rise in new types of counterfeits, such as fake Adderall made with methamphetamine, and the use of a new substance, xylazine, in pills that used to contain fentanyl,” Shabbir J. Imber Safdar, executive director of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, told Formulary Watch. “We’re also seeing fake blood thinners with no active ingredient at all this year. It's a dangerous time.”

Last year, the DEA issued a Public Safety Alert on the widespread drug trafficking of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills in the United States. In 2021, the DEA seized more than 20.4 million fake prescription pills and earlier this year, the agency conducted a nationwide operational surge to target the trafficking of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills. Earlier this year, the DEA conducted a nationwide operational surge to target the trafficking of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills and in about three months seized 10.2 million fake pills in all 50 states.

“These pills are largely made by two Mexican drug cartels, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco (CJNG) Cartel, to look identical to real prescription medications, including OxyContin, Percocet, and Xanax, and they are often deadly,” the DEA said.

Recently, the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts charged 23 people with running drug trafficking organization that manufactured and sold genuine and counterfeit prescription medications. Law enforcement officials seized 74,000 counterfeit Adderall pills containing methamphetamine and more than 1,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl.

The drug trafficking organization manufactured and distributed both pharmaceutical-grade Adderall and counterfeit pills containing methamphetamine, along with methamphetamine, Xanax (alprazolam), oxycodone (both pharmaceutical-grade and counterfeit pills containing fentanyl), cocaine and marijuana.

In another recent case, two North Store, Massachusetts, men were arrested for alleged distribution of prescription pills made with fentanyl and methamphetamine. In August, law enforcement opened an investigation into Charles Brennick Bates after he ordered 50 kilograms of an orange binding agent commonly used to make counterfeit Adderall pills. Investigators seized an industrial pill press, 14 firearms, and counterfeit Adderall suspected to contain methamphetamine and oxycodone pills suspected to contain fentanyl, from a co-conspirator’s home.

In addition, police in Red Hook, New York charged a man they believe is responsible for distributing counterfeit oxycodone pills made of fentanyl, The Partnership for Safe Medicines reported.

According to the CDC, 107,622 Americans died of drug poisoning in 2021, and 66% of the deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl, the DEA said.

Patients can protect themselves by “not trying to guess at what’s a safe online pharmacy,” Safdar said. “Almost everything online is unlicensed by your state board of pharmacy. If you find one that is licensed, use it, but they are few and far between.”