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Counterfeit Opioid Pills: New Threat to Iowans

The opioid epidemic has struck both rural and urban communities across the country. Now comes a counterfeit threat. (David Mark/Pixabay)
The opioid epidemic has struck both rural and urban communities across the country. Now comes a counterfeit threat. (David Mark/Pixabay)
July 19, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa - The danger inherent with opioid addiction has gotten worse in Iowa, according to poison-control officials who confirm that fake pills that look like the pain reliever oxycodone have entered the state.

Black-market opioids are nothing new, but these counterfeit pills contain synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is more lethal than heroin. Dr. Ed Bottei, medical director at the Iowa Poison Control Center, said this development increases the threat to people with addictions.

"Because they are getting these much more potent opioids," he said, "they run a greater risk of overdosing and possibly even dying."

Bottei said counterfeit opioid pills have been in the United States for years but only now are being seen by law enforcement in Iowa. He noted that counterfeit opioids were found in the home of the late musician Prince in Minnesota more than a year ago. About 70 people died of opioid overdoses in Iowa last year.

Bottei said illicit drugs tend to enter Iowa from the east, and gradually the problems migrate across the state. He said fentanyl-laced opioid pills are only being seen on the street.

"This is not something that's happening with legitimate, licensed pharmacies or legitimate, licensed health-care providers," he said.

Bottei said a multi-pronged approach is being used to combat the opioid epidemic - managing pain better without relying solely on opioids and always turning to a licensed physician if you need prescription pain relief. The fake pills even have the same markings as oxycodone, but Bottei noted that you never know what you're getting.

Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - IA