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Press Release

Fentanyl-Laced Counterfeit Medicines Linked to Overdoses in Contra Costa County

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) urges county residents not to buy or use prescription drugs except from licensed pharmacies after receiving several reports of overdose believed to involve counterfeit, fentanyl-laced pills.

No deaths have been linked to the cases.

CCHS's Public Health Division has received four reports since March from local hospital emergency departments about patients who likely overdosed on the potent opioid after using pills they believed were a different drug.

"Fentanyl is an extremely powerful drug that cannot be safely used except in very small amounts, under the direction of a medical provider," Public Health Director Dan Peddycord said. "Consuming fentanyl improperly – or unknowingly – could easily result in an overdose, or even death."

Other Northern California counties have reported overdose cases in recent months linked to counterfeit prescription drugs purchased on the street that were laced with fentanyl. One of the Contra Costa cases is confirmed to have involved fentanyl-laced pills.

The Contra Costa cases were reported in different emergency rooms during late March and April. It is unknown if they are related to each other, or other recent cases in California, including a large number of cases in Sacramento County.

To protect patient privacy, CCHS cannot release details about the cases.

"We know that in other jurisdictions, the pills have looked identical or very similar to those administered by pharmacies, such as Xanax or Norco," said Dr. David Goldstein, medical director of Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services. "But because they contained fentanyl, the pills were much more potent than those drugs."

The Public Health Division and the Contra Costa Alcohol & Other Drugs Program is working with local emergency departments to inform the county's medical community and to educate patients about fentanyl and safe use of prescription drugs.

Any unused pills should be properly disposed of in appropriate containers or turned over to law enforcement. If you believe that you are in possession of counterfeit prescription drugs, please contact the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency tip line at 530-722-7577.

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  • Victoria Balladares, 925-383-9367