DEA Issues Public Safety Alert on Sharp Increase in Fake Prescription Pills Containing Fentanyl and Meth

DEA Warns that International and Domestic Criminal Drug Networks are Flooding the United States with Lethal Counterfeit Pills

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a Public Safety Alert warning Americans of the alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. DEA’s Public Safety Alert, the first in six years, seeks to raise public awareness of a significant nationwide surge in counterfeit pills that are mass-produced by criminal drug networks in labs, deceptively marketed as legitimate prescription pills, and are killing unsuspecting Americans at an unprecedented rate.

These counterfeit pills have been seized by DEA in every U.S. state in unprecedented quantities. More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills were seized so far this year, which is more than the last two years combined. DEA laboratory testing reveals a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose. A deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.   

Counterfeit pills are illegally manufactured by criminal drug networks and are made to look like real prescription opioid medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); or stimulants like amphetamines (Adderall®). Fake prescription pills are widely accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms – making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including minors.

“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 vast majority of counterfeit pills brought into the United States are produced in Mexico, and China is supplying chemicals for the manufacturing of fentanyl in Mexico.

The drug overdose crisis in the United States is a serious public safety threat with rates currently reaching the highest level in history. Drug traffickers are using fake pills to exploit the opioid crisis and prescription drug misuse in the United States, bringing overdose deaths and violence to American communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States last year. Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid most commonly found in counterfeit pills, is the primary driver of this alarming increase in overdose deaths. Drug poisonings involving methamphetamine, increasingly found to be pressed into counterfeit pills, also continue to rise as illegal pills containing methamphetamine become more widespread.  

Drug trafficking is also inextricably linked to violence. This year alone, DEA seized more than 2700 firearms in connection with drug trafficking investigations – a 30 percent increase since 2019. DEA remains steadfast in its mission to protect our communities, enforce U.S. drug laws, and bring to justice the foreign and domestic criminals sourcing, producing, and distributing illicit drugs, including counterfeit pills.

This alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by licensed pharmacists. The legitimate prescription supply chain is not impacted. Anyone filling a prescription at a licensed pharmacy can be confident that the medications they receive are safe when taken as directed by a medical professional.

The issuance of today’s Public Safety Alert coincides with the launch of DEA’s One Pill Can Kill Public Awareness Campaign to educate the public of the dangers of counterfeit pills. DEA urges all Americans to be vigilant and aware of the dangers of counterfeit pills, and to take only medications prescribed by a medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist. DEA warns that pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous, and potentially lethal. For more information, visit https://www.dea.gov/onepill or scan the QR code below.

OPCK QR Code

Sign Up Now for ‘High in Plain Sight’ Training

YOU CAN’T STOP WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.

TALL COP JERMAINE GALLOWAY PROVIDES THE TOOLS, RESOURCES AND TRAINING TO COMBAT SUBSTANCE ABUSE.

Tall Cop Says Stop™ was created by Officer Jermaine Galloway, an Idaho law enforcement officer since 1997. Regarded as one of America’s top experts in various drug and alcohol trends, he has specialized in underage drinking and drug enforcement for more than 15 years.

Since 2009, Officer Galloway has won four national awards and one international award for his work. In addition to his numerous talks at conferences and other events, he has personally trained more than 105,000 people nationwide.

Officer Galloway’s many years of experience have taught him one thing above all else. In his words, “You can’t stop what you don’t know™.”

Perry County will be hosting the training in October.

The training is for law enforcement, probation officers, school administration, treatment providers, and counselors. This session is unique, in that it provides over 120 visual aids for attendees to hold and become familiar with. In today’s culture, everything is person-specific and has different meanings to different individuals. For each person to help prevent youth and adult substance abuse, you MUST know what is going on in your community. These new trends are very popular and it is important for all who are involved in prevention, education, treatment, or enforcement to understand these sweeping changes in the drug culture.

TOPICS COVERED IN THE TRAINING

This training covers alcohol and drug clothing, alcoholic energy drinks, alcopops, alcohol and drug concealment methods and containers, drug paraphernalia, drug related music and groups, logos, stickers, new technology, youth party tendencies, party games, non-traditional alcoholic beverages, social networking sites, synthetic drugs, OTC drugs, inhalants, concentrates, E-cigarettes, and popular party drugs.

 

Instructor/Trainer: Officer Jermaine Galloway “Tall Cop Says Stop”

Class Cost: $25.00 per person

Registration Required – Class Limited to 150 Attendees

Class Date / Times

9:00 am- 3:00 pm

Tuesday, October 12, 2021 

Location: Robinson Event Center Address: 2411 Walters Lane, Perryville, MO 63775

For more information on the program, visit www.tallcopsaysstop.com

For more information, contact Deputy Auston Turner at  aturner@perrycountymo.us

Missouri Would Get $500M Under Opioid Settlement

By Associated Press for Missouri Lawyers Media | molawyersmedia.com

 

The attorney general on Thursday, July 22 said Missouri could get as much as $500 million to help victims of the opioid epidemic as part of a tentative settlement with the three biggest U.S. drug distribution companies and the drug maker Johnson & Johnson.

Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt said it would be the biggest “victim-centric” settlement ever in Missouri.

“While this proposed settlement won’t bring back any of these victims, today’s announcement brings the very real possibility of just over half a billion dollars that will go directly toward funding crucial addiction treatment, recovery, and intervention programs,” Schmitt said in a statement.

Lawyers for state and local governments in the U.S. on Tuesday announced they were close to reaching a $26 billion settlement after suing to force the pharmaceutical industry to help pay to fix a nationwide opioid addiction and overdose crisis.

Under the deal, Johnson & Johnson would not produce any opioids for at least a decade. And AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson share prescribing information under a new system intended to stop the avalanches of pills that arrived in some regions about a decade ago.

Schmitt said Missouri counties need to sign on to the agreement for the state to get its full share.

DEA Finalizes Measures to Expand Medication-Assisted Treatment

Improved access will benefit rural and underserved areas with limited treatment options

The Drug Enforcement Administration today announced an important step to improve access to medications for opioid use disorder, especially in rural areas where those suffering with opioid use disorder may have limited treatment options.

Under the final rule published today, DEA registrants who are authorized to dispense methadone for opioid use disorder would be authorized to add a “mobile component” to their existing registration – eliminating the separate registration requirement for these mobile narcotic treatment programs (NTPs). This will streamline the registration process and make it easier for registrants to provide needed services in remote or underserved areas. The rule also outlines the reports and records that shall be maintained for NTPs that wish to expand the reach of their treatment programs by use of mobile components.

“In the United States, we have been facing an opioid epidemic for more than a decade,” said DEA Assistant Administrator for Diversion Control Tim McDermott. “We are losing tens of thousands of Americans per year to opioid-involved overdoses. The Administration, DOJ, DEA, HHS, among many others, are squarely focused on efforts to improve the use of medication-assisted treatment in order to reduce overdose deaths and help those with opioid-addictions recover. Today’s action sends a very important message that we support the use of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder and are using all the tools at our disposal to make treatment options available to anyone in need of them, anywhere in the country.”

“Today’s action by the DEA will improve access to life-saving medication for opioid use disorder, especially for those in underserved communities who face barriers to treatment,” said Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy Regina LaBelle. “This new rule is a significant step forward that supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s drug policy priorities, including expanding access to evidence-based treatment and advancing racial equity in our approach to drug policy.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, provisional data indicate that there were more than 67,500 reported overdose deaths attributed to opioids during the 12-month period ending in November 2020. This accounts for approximately three quarters of all drug overdose deaths in the United States.

The demand for evidence-based medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders, including opioid use disorder, has increased over the years, especially for services provided by NTPs. In certain areas of the country – particularly rural, urban, and Tribal communities – this has resulted in long waiting lists and high services fees. In addition, the distance to the nearest NTP or the lack of consistent access to transportation in rural and underserved communities may prevent or substantially impede access to these critical services.

Methadone is one of three FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder.  There are more than 1,900 narcotic treatment program locations across the country, including opioid treatment programs, withdrawal management services that utilize methadone, and compounders.

This final rule builds on existing experience and provides additional flexibility for NTPs in operating mobile components, subject to the regulatory restrictions put into place to prevent the diversion of controlled substances.

For more information, the final rule is available here.

Drug Identification – The Opioid Crisis in America

The Opioid Crisis in America is an interactive two-part course in a series of Drug Identification training modules. The other courses in this series are Depressants, Antidepressants, and Inhalants and Stimulants.

This course provides an overview of the chemical and legal classification of opioids and examines the nationa​​l epidemic of opioid abuse. It provides key information and safety measures law enforcement and criminal justice providers should know when responding to opioid related events. Community response and other evidence-based practices are also discussed.

COURSE RUN TIME: 2 HOURS

ENROLL NOW

About This Course

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, every day in America, 116 people die from an opioid overdose.[1]

As reported by the US Surgeon General in 2015, 1.5 million Americans aged 12 or older reported misusing sedatives in the past year. Furthermore, 6.1 million individuals reported misusing tranquilizers such as Xanax® in the past year[1] This is especially concerning as many of these individuals will mix sedatives and/or tranquilizers with alcohol, a depressant in its own right. This risky behavior increases the potential for overdose which can occur when critical areas in the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature stop functioning.[2] This course will identify the various types of commonly abused depressants, sedatives, anti-depressants and inhalants; discuss current trends relating to these substances; examine side effects and symptoms of abuse of these substances; discuss the synergistic effects of depressants mixed with alcohol; and review common and household items used for inhalant properties.  

Part one of this course, “The Opioid Crisis in America: Overview”, discusses the differences between opiates and opioids; identifies uses of opioids, examines the overall national opioid epidemic, describes the societal impacts of opioid abuse.

Part two, “The Opioid Crisis in America: Opioid Drugs and Responses” reviews the most commonly abused prescription opioid drugs; differentiates between physical manifestations of synthetic opioids in comparison to other opioids; examines common methods of opioid injection and common paraphernalia used for ingestion; and reviews medications to reduce opioid dependence.

[1] Public Affairs. “HHS.gov/Opioids: The Prescription Drug & Heroin Overdose Epidemic.“ HHS.gov. Accessed May 03, 2018. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/

properties.  

[1] “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2016. 1-9. https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-generals-report.pdf.

Participants should expect to spend approximately 2 hours reviewing the content and resources in this course.

This tuition-free online training was developed by the National Criminal Justice Training Center of Fox Valley Technical College and was originally supported by cooperative agreement 2017-CK-WX-K007 by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Primary Audience

This course is ideal for all law enforcement, criminal justice professionals and service providers as well as community-policing stakeholders, including corrections professionals, court system personnel, social workers, and behavioral health/treatment providers.

Policing on the Front Lines of the Opioid Crisis

Law enforcement officers play three important roles on the front lines of the opioid epidemic: They are responsible for emergency response and preserving public safety as well as law enforcement. This report from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) discusses the challenge of reconciling the conflicts that can arise among these roles and presents recommendations for alleviating these difficulties and improving law enforcement response to the opioid crisis.

The COPS Office is the component of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for advancing the practice of community policing by the nation’s state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies through information and grant resources.

The COPS Office publishes materials for law enforcement and community stakeholders to use in collaborativ​​ely addressing crime and disorder challenges. 

These free publications provide best practice approaches and give access to collective knowledge from the field. You can find their recent and featured publications, and search the Resource Center or their Community Policing Topics pages for specific issues ​by visiting ​​https://cops.usdoj.gov/recentreleases or by calling the COPS Office Response Center at 800-421-6770.

Photo by camilo jimenez | Unsplash.com

National DEA Drug Take Back Day is Approaching

​​According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers, 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants, and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in 2019. The survey also showed that a majority of misused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.

​​The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Take Back Day, set to take place this year from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 24, ​​addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue by giving Americans the opportunity to clean out their medicine cabinets and turn in — safely and anonymously — unused prescription drugs.

In 2020 alone, Americans returned 985,392 lbs (492.7 tons) of unused prescription drugs at 4,487 Collection Sites across the country.​ ​The DEA, along with its law enforcement partners, has now collected nearly 13.7 million pounds of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription medications since the inception of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative in 2010.
 
​Find a drop-off site near you by visiting https://takebackday.dea.gov/#collection-locator.
 
Law enforcement agencies interested in hosting a collection site should visit https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/poc.htm
 
To learn more about legal and illegal drugs and the effect they can have on your mind and body visit https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/drugs
 
If no prescription drug take-back program is available in your area, you can find simple steps to throw the drugs in the household trash by visiting https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2018-10/Proper%20Disposal%20Flier%20%28October%202018%29.pdf
 
To learn more about drug scheduling and penalties visit https://www.campusdrugprevention.gov/content/drug-scheduling-and-penalties
 
To locate a treatment facility that addresses substance use/addiction and mental health issues visit https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

Opioid Manufacturer Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Kickback Conspiracies

Opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma LP (Purdue) pleaded guilty today in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, to conspiracies to defraud the United States and violate the anti-kickback statute.

Purdue pleaded guilty to an information charging it with three felony offenses: one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,”  said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.  “Today’s guilty pleas to three felony charges send a strong message to the pharmaceutical industry that illegal behavior will have serious consequences.  Further, today’s convictions underscore the department’s commitment to its multi-pronged strategy for defeating the opioid crisis.”

“Purdue admitted that it marketed and sold its dangerous opioid products to healthcare providers, even though it had reason to believe those providers were diverting them to abusers,”  said Rachael A. Honig, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.  “The company lied to the Drug Enforcement Administration about steps it had taken to prevent such diversion, fraudulently increasing the amount of its products it was permitted to sell. Purdue also paid kickbacks to providers to encourage them to prescribe even more of its products.”

“As today’s plea to felony charges shows, Purdue put opioid profits ahead of people and corrupted the sacred doctor-patient relationship,” said Christina Nolan, U.S Attorney for the District of Vermont.  “We hope the company’s guilty plea sends a message that the Justice Department will not allow big pharma and big tech to engage in illegal profit-generating schemes that interfere with sound medicine.  We hope, also, that this guilty plea will bring some sense of justice to those who have suffered from opioid addictions involving oxycodone and some vindication for families and loved ones of those who did not survive such addiction.”

“This case makes clear that no company, including Purdue Pharma, whose actions harm the health and safety of the American public, is beyond the reach of law enforcement,”  said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.  “The opioid epidemic continues to spread across the United States impacting countless Americans and harming communities. Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI is committed to investigating and holding criminals accountable for the roles they play in fueling this crisis.”

As part of today’s guilty plea, Purdue admitted that from May 2007 through at least March 2017, it conspired to defraud the United States by impeding the lawful function of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  Purdue represented to the DEA that it maintained an effective anti-diversion program when, in fact, Purdue continued to market its opioid products to more than 100 health care providers whom the company had good reason to believe were diverting opioids.  Purdue also reported misleading information to the DEA to boost Purdue’s manufacturing quotas.  The misleading information comprised prescription data that included prescriptions written by doctors that Purdue had good reason to believe were engaged in diversion.  The conspiracy also involved aiding and abetting violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by facilitating the dispensing of its opioid products, including OxyContin, without a legitimate medical purpose, and thus without lawful prescriptions.

Purdue also admitted it conspired to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute. Between June 2009 and March 2017, Purdue made payments to two doctors through Purdue’s doctor speaker program to induce those doctors to write more prescriptions of Purdue’s opioid products.  Also, from April 2016 through December 2016, Purdue made payments to Practice Fusion Inc., an electronic health records company, in exchange for referring, recommending, and arranging for the ordering of Purdue’s extended release opioid products – OxyContin, Butrans, and Hysingla.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Purdue agreed to the imposition of the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, including a criminal fine of $3.544 billion and an additional $2 billion in criminal forfeiture. For the $2 billion forfeiture, the company will pay $225 million within three business days following the entry of a judgment of conviction in accordance with the Plea Agreement.  The department is willing to credit the value conferred by the company to state and local governments under the department’s anti-piling on and coordination policy if certain conditions are met.

Purdue has also agreed to a civil settlement that provides the United States with an allowed, unsubordinated, general unsecured bankruptcy claim for recovery of $2.8 billion to resolve its civil liability under the False Claims Act.  Separately, the Sackler family has agreed to pay $225 million in damages to resolve its civil False Claims Act liability.

The criminal and civil resolutions, which were announced on Oct. 21, 2020, do not include the criminal release of any individuals, including members of the Sackler family, nor are any of the company’s executives or employees receiving civil releases.

On Nov. 17, 2020, the bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York approved the financial terms of the global resolution with the company.  The resolution includes the condition that the company cease to operate in its current form and instead emerge from bankruptcy as a public benefit company (PBC) or entity with a similar mission designed for the benefit of the American public.  The proceeds of the PBC will be directed toward state and local opioid abatement programs.  Based on the value that would be conferred to state and local governments through the PBC, the department is willing to credit up to $1.775 billion against the agreed $2 billion forfeiture amount.  The department looks forward to working with the creditor groups in the bankruptcy in charting the path forward for this PBC to best accomplish public health goals.

The global resolution does not resolve claims that states may have against Purdue or members of the Sackler family, nor does it impede the debtors’ or other third parties’ ability to recover any fraudulent transfers.

Except to the extent of Purdue’s admissions as part of its criminal resolution, the claims resolved by the civil settlements are allegations only.  There has been no determination of liability in the civil matters.

Photo by Michael Longmire | Unsplash.com

DEA and partners collect a record amount of unwanted medications during National Drug Take Back Day

DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day brought in nearly a million pounds of unused, expired, and unwanted medications across the country, the largest amount ever collected in the program’s ten years. Americans once again showed their dedication to remove prescription pills from their homes to prevent addiction before it starts.

DEA, along with its law enforcement partners, has now collected nearly 13.7 million pounds of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription medications since the inception of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative in 2010. On Oct. 24, the public turned in 985,392 pounds – almost 493 tons – of medication to DEA and 4,153 of its community partners at 4,587 collection sites nationwide, including 33 Bureau of Indian Affairs sites.

“This year’s event, with a record-setting 493-ton collection, is a sure sign that DEA’s Take Back Day events continue to provide a vital public service that keeps loved ones safe—an opportunity to rid homes of potentially dangerous unused, expired, and unwanted medications,” said DEA Acting Administrator Timothy Shea. “Every day is Take Back Day and we encourage the public to continue to address this urgent safety and public health issue by using the thousands of existing drop-off locations throughout the year.”

In addition to DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, safe and secure drug disposal continues to be available at any of the 11,000 DEA authorized collectors throughout the year. For more information, visit: https://apps2.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e1s1.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, DEA wants to ensure that the public is aware of other ways they can dispose of unwanted prescription drugs without having to leave their homes. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have tips on how to safely dispose of drugs at home.

DEA also encourages the public to reach out to their local law enforcement to find out if they have any permanent drug disposal locations throughout their local community.

Complete results for DEA’s 2020 October Take Back Day are available at www.deatakeback.com.

DEA Take Back Day is October 24

DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. This is an opportunity to clean out medicine cabinets and dispose of unwanted, unused and expired medications, preventing drug addiction before it starts.

Collection sites will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and regulations in order to maintain the safety of all participants and local law enforcement.

For more information on DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, and to find a collection site near you, visit www.deatakeback.com.

Alternative Disposal Methods

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, collection sites may be limited. Can’t find a collection site near you? Learn more about other ways to dispose of and keep medications safe by clicking on the following link:
Other Ways to Dispose of Medication