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Number of deaths from counterfeit prescription drug overdoses rising: CDC

September 1, 2023 – The variety of overdose deaths from counterfeit prescribed drugs has greater than doubled lately, the CDC reported.

From July to September 2019 to October to December 2021, the number of people that died from drug overdoses and who had evidence of taking counterfeit pills increased from 2% to 4.7%, in keeping with the CDC in its Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report. The problem was particularly acute in Western countries, where the tax rate greater than tripled, rising from 4.7 percent to 14.7 percent.

Overdose victims were often Hispanics with a history of drug use and drug use through smoking, in keeping with the CDC. About 57% of those overdoses involving counterfeit pills involved people under the age of 35.

People who overdosed often thought they were taking oxycodone or Xanax from pharmaceutical corporations, but were actually taking a counterfeit pill that looked like the actual thing and was laced with other drugs. In 93% of overdose deaths, the counterfeit pills were laced with fentanyl.

“People don't always know what's in them,” said Dr. Julie O'Donnell, writer of the brand new report and an epidemiologist within the CDC's Division of Overdose Prevention, NBC News“The risk of overdose is increased in people who believe they are taking legitimate medicines.”

The CDC's data comes from the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS), which uses information from death certificates, coroner reports, toxicology reports and witness statements. O'Donnell told NBC News the statistics are “definitely underestimated.”

The CDC said “overdose prevention messages” highlighting the risks of counterfeit pills could help prevent overdose deaths.