Report: Counterfeit Medications Containing Deadly Fentanyl Have Been Found in 40 States

Review of Public Records, News Reports by Partnership for Safe Medicines Finds at Least 15 Deaths Tied to Fentanyl-Laced Fake Medicines

WASHINGTON--()--A newly-released report on counterfeit medicines is placing the spotlight on a problem that may be far worse than is commonly believed. According to the review conducted by The Partnership for Safe Medicines, counterfeit prescription drugs containing the deadly ingredient fentanyl, most often illegally imported, have been found in as many as 40 states and are tied to deaths in more than a dozen states.

The report was compiled by reviewing court records, statements by law enforcement and public health agencies, and news reports from a period of more than two years, from April 2015 to September 2017. The report comes on the heels of the seizure of nearly 200 pounds of illegal fentanyl by New York authorities, and has significant law enforcement ramifications given that it indicates that many fatalities have occurred because of illegally-doctored prescription medicines.

“Up until now, it’s been difficult to grasp the scope and pervasiveness of the counterfeit drug problem,” said Dr. Marvin Shepherd, chairman of the PSM Board and former director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy.

“We’ve had a number of examples of counterfeit pill seizures and tragic fentanyl-related deaths, but this report paints a picture of a nation under siege from fake and lethal drugs coming across our borders,” he said.

Examples from the report include:

  • New Hampshire police seized large quantities of fentanyl tablets made to resemble 30-milligram oxycodone pills.
  • Nine people died in Pinellas County, Florida after taking what they believed were Xanax pills, but were actually counterfeits laced with fentanyl.
  • A random traffic stop in North Carolina resulted in the seizure of 5,000 counterfeit OxyContin pills made from fentanyl.
  • In Arizona, a state in which over 30 Maricopa County residents died after taking fentanyl-laced fake prescription drugs, over 30,000 counterfeit pills were seized by federal and state authorities last month.

“There is a global counterfeit drug crisis, and this is a lucrative business for counterfeiters who are buying cheap, illegal fentanyl from Chinese suppliers and shipping it into the U.S., often via the mail,” said Shepherd.

The report recommends the steps that federal authorities should take to address this growing crisis. They include providing U.S. Customs and Border Protection with sufficient resources to combat the increasing flow of counterfeit drugs entering the country, removing bureaucratic barriers so that authorities can destroy packages of verified counterfeits, and forbidding anyone who does not have a license to manufacture medications from purchasing or owning a pill press. It is also necessary to begin screening all presumed opioid overdose cases for toxic compounds to identify cases linked to counterfeit medications.

For more information on the intersection between fentanyl and counterfeit medicines, visit

About PSM

The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) is a public health group comprised of 69 non-profit organizations that are committed to the safety of prescription drugs and protecting consumers against counterfeit, substandard or otherwise unsafe medicines.

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The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM)
Shabbir Safdar, 703-679-7233


The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM)
Shabbir Safdar, 703-679-7233