top of page

CDC: Counterfeit Pills Involved in Growing Share of Overdose Deaths in the US

Drug overdose deaths in the United States have reached alarming levels, with counterfeit pill usage contributing to the complexity of the illicit drug market and potentially increasing overdose risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a report that sheds light on the prevalence and characteristics of overdose deaths involving evidence of counterfeit pill use.

The report analyzed data from CDC's State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System, covering the period from July 2019 to December 2021. Key findings include:

  1. The percentage of overdose deaths with evidence of counterfeit pill use more than doubled from 2.0% during July–September 2019 to 4.7% during October–December 2021. Notably, the increase was even more pronounced in western U.S. states, where the percentage more than tripled to 14.7%.

  2. Decedents with evidence of counterfeit pill use were generally younger, with 57.1% aged below 35 years. Additionally, a higher percentage of Hispanic or Latino individuals were found among those decedents (18.7% versus 9.4%). These patterns highlight the need for tailored prevention efforts that take into account demographic factors.

  3. The report found that decedents with evidence of counterfeit pill use were more likely to have a history of prescription drug misuse (27.0% versus 9.4%). This highlights the importance of addressing the underlying issue of prescription drug misuse in overdose prevention strategies.

  4. The study revealed that Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyls (IMFs) were the only drugs involved in 41.4% of deaths with evidence of counterfeit pill use. Combating the infiltration of IMFs into the illicit drug market is crucial for preventing overdose deaths.

Based on the report's findings, the CDC suggests several measures for public health practice:

  1. Overdose Prevention Messaging: Public health campaigns should prioritize raising awareness about the dangers of pills obtained illicitly or without a prescription, emphasizing the risk of counterfeit pills. The messaging should target persons most at risk, such as younger individuals.

  2. Drug Product Testing: Encouraging drug users to test the products they consume can help identify counterfeit pills and reduce the risk of unintended drug exposure. This can be achieved through the availability of drug testing kits or services.

  3. Targeted Approach: Prevention efforts should consider the specific characteristics and behaviors of those at higher risk, such as younger individuals and Hispanic or Latino populations. Tailored prevention strategies can ensure maximum effectiveness.

  4. Collaborative Efforts: Addressing the issue of counterfeit pill use requires collaboration among various stakeholders, including law enforcement, healthcare providers, and community organizations. Sharing information, best practices, and resources can help tackle this complex problem more effectively.

The increase in drug overdose deaths involving evidence of counterfeit pill use is a concerning trend. The report highlights the need for proactive and targeted approaches to prevent such deaths. By raising awareness about the dangers of counterfeit pills, promoting drug testing, and tailoring prevention strategies to vulnerable populations, we can make progress in reducing the devastating impact of counterfeit pill usage on public health.

To read the full report and access additional resources on overdose prevention, please visit the CDC's website:Source


bottom of page