Counterfeit pills that look like oxycodone or other prescription opioids, but actually contain black market fentanyl, are causing deaths nationwide, says a Drug Enforcement Administration report quoted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. DEA estimates that the number of fentanyl-containing fake medicines reaching the U.S. at hundreds of thousands of doses. Fentanyl, along with heroin and prescription opioids, is widely blamed for the relentless rise in fatal overdoses nationwide, including 81 percent of the record 3,383 Pennsylvania drug deaths last year.
Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller. DEA blames labs in China for producing knock-off fentanyl, sold to drug trafficking groups throughout North America and sometimes mixed with heroin or put into pills. DEA says a few thousand dollars can get the traffickers a kilogram of fentanyl, enough to spike hundreds of thousands of pills that sell for millions of dollars. “The counterfeit pills often closely resemble the authentic medications they were designed to mimic, and the presence of fentanyl is only detected upon laboratory analysis,” DEA said.