ST. PAUL — Twin Cities area officials with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have seized approximately 46,000 counterfeit pills so far this year, the administration announced Wednesday, Aug. 12, four times as much as they recovered in all of 2019.
Pills made to look like Xanax, hydrocodone and other prescription drugs are turning up in the continuation of regional trend that began two years ago, authorities warned in a news release, some of which may be laced with the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. Even small amounts of fentanyl can cause a user to overdose, sometimes fatally.
"There is no quality control in these counterfeit pills," DEA Omaha Division special agent Richard Salter Jr. is quoted as saying in the release. "Each time someone takes a counterfeit pain pill, they are playing Russian roulette with their life."
Federal authorities in the region say that criminal drug traffickers in Mexico smuggle the pills into the U.S., and eventually to Minnesota, via the countries' border in Arizona and California. Some pills have been sent here directly by entities in China whose nature was not specified in Wednesday's news release.
More counterfeit pills are being shipped through the mail as well, authorities said. Investigators in Minneapolis recently seized nearly 4,000 of them with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The most common counterfeit pill found in Minnesota is made to look like an oxycodone substitute and bears a stamp reading "M30," according to the release. Nationally, the DEA found that 27% of counterfeit pills seized in 2019 contained fentanyl.
Authorities in Wednesday's release warned against the use of counterfeit pills, which are sold illegally, but cautioned that there is no risk of them entering the legitimate pharmaceutical supply chain.