DEA sees ‘alarming increase’ in fake prescription pills in region including Kansas, Missouri


FILE – This photo provided by the U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah and introduced as evidence in a 2019 trial shows fentanyl-laced fake oxycodone pills collected during an investigation. In a resumption of a brutal trend, nearly 71,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2019 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new record high that predates the COVID-19 crisis. The numbers were driven by fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids, which accounted for 36,500 overdose deaths. (U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah via AP)

ST. LOUIS– The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a Public Safety Alert warning Americans of what it calls an alarming increase in fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and meth.

The Special Agent in Charge of the DEA in St. Louis division says it has seized 179 kilograms this year, nearly as much as we seized in the two previous years. The St. Louis division includes Missouri, Kansas, and southern Illinois.

“That’s hundreds of thousands of pills that drug trafficking organizations never pressed into a pill that might kill someone. They don’t care about human life. We do, and DEA investigators are working hard to stop fentanyl from reaching our neighborhoods and taking more lives,” says Todd Zimmerman, Special Agent in Charge.

DEA St. Louis Division fentanyl seizures for the last four years: 

  • FY2018 – 36 kilograms 
  • FY2019 – 104 kilograms 
  • FY2020 – 82 kilograms 
  • FY2021 – 179 kilograms

The Public Safety Alert is an attempt to raise awareness of a significant nationwide surge in counterfeit pills that are mass-produced by criminal drug networks in labs. The DEA says the pills are deceptively marketed as legitimate prescription pills.

The DEA also says the drug overdose crisis in the United States is a serious public safety threat with rates currently reaching the highest level in history. They say drug traffickers are using fake pills to exploit the opioid crisis and prescription drug misuse in the US bringing overdose deaths and violence to American communities.

More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized nationwide this year, 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.

The DEA says the counterfeit pills are illegally made by criminal drug networks and look like real prescription opioid medications like oxycodone, hydrocodone, amphetamines, and alprazolam.

Officials say the vast majority of counterfeit pills brought into the United States are made in Mexico. They also say China is supplying chemicals for the manufacturing of fentanyl in Mexico.

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