The Risk of Fake Meds: Lessons Learned from the Death of Prince

The death of the artist Prince this past spring from an opioid overdose seemed to be just one more example of a rising public health epidemic. However, a recent report has added another level of concern – the drugs he took to manage chronic pain were counterfeit hydrocodone containing the deadly drug fentanyl. As highlighted in an August blog post for the Partnership for Safe Medicines, the artist “appears to have been a victim of the fentanyl-laced counterfeit pain pill epidemic sweeping the United States.”

In addition to finding it mixed with hydrocodone, fentanyl has been found in medications such as Xanax, Norco, and Percocet – leading to deaths in at least 23 states. Consumers with a range of health needs are at risk – not to mention teens and others attempting to obtain medications for recreational use. These fake pills are not able to be spotted as they mimic their less harmful counterparts and require laboratory testing to confirm if any adulteration has occurred.

While the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration  (DEA) and other federal, state and local agencies attempt to identify and curtail sellers of these deadly, fake pills, consumers need to proceed with caution when purchasing or taking any medications. CSIP and its partners have a range of resources to help consumers be better aware of what they are buying and more importantly from where. The online pharmacy verification tool from CSIP partner LegitScript is one place to start.

By only taking medication prescribed by trusted and licensed doctors and making purchases from reliable pharmacies, consumers can be more assured that they are getting the medication they need – without sacrificing the most important thing – their lives.

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The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) and our 11 member companies have the shared goal of helping address the growing problem of consumer access to illegitimate pharmaceutical products on the Internet. Continue to read this blog for updates on CSIP’s education, enforcement and information-sharing efforts.