Lethal counterfeit pills being sold online as prescription drugs, DEA warns

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warned Monday that the United States is being flooded with counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine, which are killing Americans at an "unprecedented rate." 

In its first Public Safety Alert in six years, the agency said that there is a "significant nationwide surge in counterfeit pills that are mass-produced by criminal drug networks in labs." They are being made to resemble prescription opioid medications such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Xanax and even amphetamines like Adderall, according to the DEA. 

The pills are then "deceptively marketed as legitimate prescription pills" online and on social media platforms, which makes them "available to anyone with a smartphone, including minors," the DEA continued. 

There have been "unprecedented quantities" of these counterfeit pills in every state, according to the DEA. 

More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have already been seized by the agency this year, "which is more than the last two years combined," the federal agency said. 

Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram said that these dangerous pills are "more accessible than ever before" and are fueling the U.S. drug overdose crisis. 

"DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose," Milgram said. 

As a result, the DEA is focusing on "taking down the violent drug traffickers causing the greatest harm and posing the greatest threat to the safety and health of Americans." 

In order to do so, the agency launched a public awareness campaign called "One Pill Can Kill." 

The goal of the campaign is to educate Americans about the dangers of these counterfeit pills and to remind them to stay vigilant when purchasing medication. 

"Take only medications prescribed by a medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist," the agency said, adding that "pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous, and potentially lethal." 

Just last year, more than 93,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States, the DEA said, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, Fentanyl, which is most commonly found in counterfeit pills, is the "primary driver of this alarming increase in overdose deaths."

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