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November 2019 – United States: DEA issues warning over falsified prescription pills from Mexico

LOS ANGELES, United States - November 2019: The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued a public alert on dangerous falsified prescription pills manufactured by Mexican drug cartels that were found to contain fentanyl. Based on a sampling of pills seized nationwide between January and March 2019, the DEA found that 27 per cent contained potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. A lethal dose of fentanyl is estimated to be about two milligrams, but can vary according to an individual’s body size, tolerance, amount of previous usage and other factors.

The alert also refers to the latest Fentanyl Signature Profiling Program (FSPP) report released on 28 October 2019, which detailed the results and conclusions derived from in-depth chemical analyses on a sample of 344 fentanyl and fentanyl-related exhibits seized in the United States in 2019. The average fentanyl purity for powder exhibits was 9.7 per cent (ranging from 0.05 per cent to 98.1 per cent). Exhibits were primarily diluted with sugars and heroin was detected in 21 per cent of them. The average tablet exhibit contained 1.7 mg of fentanyl. The predominant synthetic route for majority of the fentanyl seizures was determined to be the Janssen Method. Twenty-eight exhibits contained fentanyl-related compounds including carfentanil, valerylfentanyl and 2-furanylfentanyl.

In view of the growing public health threat posed by synthetic opioids, UNODC launched an integrated strategy to support countries in addressing the on-going synthetic opioids crisis affecting mainly North America with fentanyl and its analogues, and in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East with tramadol.

Table: Fentanyl-related compound seizures in the United States, 2019

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Special Testing and Research Laboratory, 2019.


For more information, please see:
DEA, 2019. DEA Los Angeles issues warning over counterfeit prescription pills from Mexico. Los Angeles, United States.
DEA, 2019. Fentanyl Signature Profiling Program Report. Virginia, United States.
UNODC, 2019. Global SMART Update 21 – Understanding the global opioid crisis. Vienna, Austria.
UNODC, 2017. Global SMART Update 17 – Fentanyl and its analogues – 50 years on. Vienna, Austria.

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