DEA issues Public Safety Alert on fake prescription pills


FILE – This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York. The three biggest U.S. drug distribution companies and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson are on the verge of a $26 billion settlement covering thousands of lawsuits over the toll of opioids across the U.S., two people with knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press. The settlement involving AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson is expected this week. A $1 billion-plus deal involving the three distributors and the state of New York was planned for Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a Public Safety Alert regarding the increase in fake prescription pills.

The DEA’s Public Safety Alert warns that the pills, containing potentially lethal doses of fentanyl and/or methamphetamine, are mass-produced by criminal drug networks to look like legitimate prescription pills.

So far, the counterfeit pills have been seized in every U.S. state. “More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills were seized so far this year,” according to the DEA.

“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said Anne Milgram, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before. In fact, DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose. DEA is focusing resources on taking down the violent drug traffickers causing the greatest harm and posing the greatest threat to the safety and health of Americans. Today, we are alerting the public to this danger so that people have the information they need to protect themselves and their children.”

The counterfeit pills are manufactured to look like real medications, such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®).

They are widely accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms.

“Unless you’re taking a pill given to you by a pharmacist or a physician, you’re playing Russian roulette,” said Special Agent in Charge Todd Scott, who leads DEA’s Louisville Division. “We’re seeing too many folks get a hold of pills they don’t even know are counterfeit, often with tragic results.”

Fentanyl has become the main culprit in the increase of overdose deaths. Drug poisonings involving methamphetamine in fake prescription pills have also become more common.

The vast majority of counterfeit pills brought into the United States are produced in Mexico, with China supplying chemicals.

The DEA emphasized that legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by licensed pharmacists are safe when taken as directed by a medical professional.

The alert worked alongside the DEA’s One Pill Can Kill Public Awareness Campaign to educate the public on the dangers of counterfeit pills. For more information, visit

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