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CDC issues warning after fake pain medication kills 14 people

By Karen Graham     Apr 27, 2016 in Health
San Francisco - Illicit prescription pain medications have killed over 12 people in recent weeks in California alone. The pills are exact replicas of Norco, a medium-strength opioid pain killer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its weekly Morbidity and Mortality report (MMWR) on Tuesday, warning that the fake Norco pills have resulted in 14 deaths in California in the past few weeks.
While the MMWR discussed the deaths in California in detail, the warning issued by the CDC is intended for the whole country. The distribution of counterfeit pain medications, especially those containing fentanyl has become a major and serious health threat in the U.S. despite prevention strategies at all levels of government.
The fake Norco Pill
It was only by chance that health officials were able to obtain one of the fake Norco pills from a patient who had overdosed. The fake Norco pill was an exact replica of the real opioid medication prescribed by physicians for pain. The big difference was that the pill contained .5 mg of fentanyl, 2.3 mg of promethazine, 39.2 mg of acetaminophen, and trace amounts of cocaine.
The big issue now is stopping the supply and the DEA is working to connect the dots, a DEA official told the Associated Press. Recently, a large supply of fentanyl-laced pills were seized by Canadian authorities. Most concerning is the addition of promethazine to the drug mixture. While normally used to treat nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness, promethazine is also believed to further increase the high when taken with an opioid.
Opioid addiction in the U.S.
Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with 47,055 lethal overdose deaths recorded in 2014. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2014, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).
People using the illicit Norco and other look-alike opioids are not getting them from legitimate doctors or pharmacies. The illegal pills are coming from Asia and brought into Mexico by the drug cartels. They are then brought into the U.S. This means that it is Americans who are helping the drug cartels stay in business, even if it kills them.
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