Fatal overdoses from counterfeit pharmaceuticals, particularly pills found to contain fentanyls, more than doubled in recent years, the CDC reported.
The proportion of those deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyls jumped to 93.0% from 72.2%, while illicit benzodiazepines also rose to 5.3% from 1.4%. Fake fentanyl was the sole drug involved in 41.4% of counterfeit pill-related deaths, compared with 19.5% of overdose deaths without evidence of counterfeit pill use.
Western states drove the increase in deaths with evidence of counterfeit pill use, with a rise from 4.7% to 14.7% across the study period, whereas percentages remained below 4% elsewhere, reported Julie O'Donnell, PhD, of the CDC, and colleagues in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
"Counterfeit pills have been marketed toward younger persons, who might have more recently started using drugs and have lower tolerance," O'Donnell and colleagues wrote. "Younger persons might also exhibit more risk-taking behaviors than do older persons, and engage less with harm reduction services."