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More Than 800 People Have Been Arrested As The DOJ Clamps Down On Fake Pills

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference in Washington that counterfeit pills are designed to look like regular prescription drugs. Here, counterfeit 30 mg Oxycodone tablets.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference in Washington that counterfeit pills are designed to look like regular prescription drugs. Here, counterfeit 30 mg Oxycodone tablets.

Updated September 30, 2021 at 5:55 PM ET

The Justice Department is combating a surge in counterfeit pills that can cause deadly drug overdoses, an effort that in the past two months has led to the arrest of more than 800 people, 60 search warrants and 1.8 million recovered counterfeit pills laced with enough fentanyl to kill 700,000 Americans.

"We are here to let the American people know that one pill can kill," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Monaco said the counterfeit pills are designed to look like regular prescription drugs — Vicodin, Percocet, Xanax or other medicines. The Justice Department said the pills are mass produced in Mexico before making their way to the U.S. to be sold online or on the streets.

"From small towns to suburbs to rural counties, no place is immune," Monaco said.

The DEA chief says the counterfeit pills represent a national emergency

Many of the ongoing investigations into drug trafficking and weapons offenses started with overdose deaths. New Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram said at least nine overdose deaths are being investigated.

"We want to do everything we can to stop the next overdose from happening," Milgram said.

Milgram talked with Mexico's attorney general this week. She told him the U.S. is in crisis and asked for his help, including honoring extradition requests and giving the DEA access to "illicit financing information and other critical evidence we need when we conduct investigation into organized crime," Milgram said.

The DEA chief said a significant number of her investigations involve sales on sites such as Snapchat and Instagram. Asked whether the technology companies are doing enough, she said: "There's no question in my mind that those sites need to do more. If we know that there's drug dealing happening on their sites every single day, they know that, too."

Milgram said the counterfeit pills represent a national emergency, and this is just the start of the DEA response.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.