Police say pill mix that contains fentanyl and can kill more than 50 million people was found at two north-state pharmacies and a pharmacy in Montana
Synthetic opioid strong enough to ‘kill more than 50M people’ seized in California, authorities say
Police say a pair of North-American dispensaries have sold a potent opioid mix that can kill more than 50 million people, according to the Associated Press.
The potent drug mix – which is stronger than fentanyl, and has a range of effects that can be fatal or paralyze – was found in two California dispensaries, and at a pharmacy in Montana, an Associated Press analysis of drug tests found.
Police in both California and Montana said the samples taken from the dispensaries were not prescribed by a doctor, and were not part of a DEA controlled substance database, the AP reported.
“A combination like this is the worst of the worst,” Medford, Oregon, police chief Nick Hedges told the AP.
Hedges said the combination sold at the Walgreens pharmacy in his city had a purity of less than one percent, which killed 24 overdose victims over a three-week period.
“In three weeks, that is going to kill 100,000 people.”
Fentanyl, an opioid, and carfentanil, an animal sedative, are both synthetic opioids that were made illegal in 2016. Carfentanil is more than 100 times stronger than fentanyl, and 5,000 times more powerful than morphine. While carfentanil is a prescription drug approved for use in animals, it is so powerful it can paralyze even healthy people.
Experts said the recent batch of synthetic opioid pills could be the largest distribution of its kind in the US. A shipment of fentanyl and the opioid carfentanil – with potency sometimes eight times stronger than morphine – was seized in a Texas mailroom in October, but recent reports suggest there may have been much more of the dangerous substance coming into the US from China.
Dale Gieringer, who heads the California chapter of the National Association of People with Disabilities, called the DEA reports on the recent stash in California “the tip of the iceberg”.
“There are potentially tens of millions of people taking fentanyl every day, and no one knows how many of those people will overdose on it and die,” he said.
Dale Gieringer, the head of the California chapter of the National Association of People with Disabilities. Photograph: Pierre Terme/Getty Images
The DEA reported on Monday that it had shut down about 50 fentanyl labs in response to the epidemic. The agency warned there could be more death tolls unless treatment and prevention measures were taken.
More than 70 people died from the opioid crisis in Oregon last year, about half from fentanyl. State authorities reported 119 opioid-related deaths.
Sean Maloney, medical director for Multnomah County, Oregon, which includes the Oregon capital, Portland, said a national effort is needed to “cure a mental health problem before we let the disease take hold in our communities”.
Maloney said the opioid crisis is much more than an opioid epidemic: “We have a crisis of an entire class of medical practitioners who have failed to keep their eye on the patient, to monitor for cancer-related medications, for opiate abuse.”
Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, urged a joint meeting of the House and Senate health care committees this week to address the rapidly-changing opioid epidemic.
“Today, we have so many gaps in our structure,” she said. “We’re going to need input from others in the health care community, from prevention, from treatment, to better supervising of medications.”
Jeffrey Lieberman, an Oregon State Medical Board member and a prominent critic of some pain-management practices, told the AP that the direness of the situation can’t be exaggerated.
“We are frankly seeing a catastrophe,” he said. “We are now in danger of seeing more than 50 million people get smoked and killed by this.”