DSCSA traceability is a necessary layer of public safety as counterfeit drug deaths rise

September 7, 2023

Getting counterfeit substances off the street

As reported by 8NewsNow and KTNV, authorities recently seized 20,000 doses of controlled substances, counterfeit pharmaceutical products, and mislabeled pharmaceutical products from businesses in North Las Vegas, according to a release from Attorney General Aaron Ford. The Nevada Attorney General's Office stated that search warrants were executed by investigators from its own office as well as Homeland Security and the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy.

“Pharmaceuticals that are mislabeled or counterfeit can present serious dangers to consumers, who may not know exactly what they are buying,” Ford said. “Getting these substances off the street is important for the health and safety of Nevadans.”

Overdose deaths from counterfeit drugs on the rise

The news comes amid warnings from the U.S. Centers from Disease Control and Prevention, via Gizmodo, that drug overdose deaths caused by counterfeit prescription pills have more than doubled from 2019 to 2021. Many of these deaths involved pills laced with fentanyl that had been mislabeled and sold as other opioid painkillers.

The findings, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, appear to show that suppliers "now seem to be commonly passing off pills made with fentanyl as their legal, less potent prescription opioid counterparts." About 93% of drug overdose deaths where there was evidence of counterfeit drug use involved fentanyl, and more than half of these deaths involved pills sold as containing oxycodone.

The report's introduction states, "Drug overdose deaths are at historically high levels in the United States, with a preliminary estimate of more than 105,000 deaths in 2022. The proliferation of counterfeit pills, which are not manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, but are typically made to look like legitimate pharmaceutical pills ... is complicating the illicit drug market and potentially contributing to these deaths." It goes on to say that counterfeit pills "can increase overdose risk because the pills might expose persons to drugs they did not intend to use."

DSCSA traceability protects public health

While counterfeit drugs are often sold online or via social media, there are also significant recorded cases of schemes that depend on getting illegitimate products into the legitimate drug supply chain. Removing the tools of legitimacy from fraudsters is an essential part of DSCSA’s design, and reports like the ones from Las Vegas and the CDC show that traceability remains an urgent safety issue.

To make sure your business — and your patients — are protected, move forward with comprehensive solutions for DSCSA compliance, and insist that your trading partners do the same.