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Photo: Tom Kelley/Getty Images

The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a public safety alert Monday warning of a rise in the circulation of fake and potentially lethal prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.

By the numbers: The agency said it's seizing counterfeit pills "at record rates," with over 9.5 million seized so far this year — more than the last two years combined.

  • There has also been a "dramatic rise" in the number of fake pills containing deadly doses of fentanyl, and that "today, two out of every five pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose."
  • The number of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl seized by the agency has jumped nearly 430% since 2019, the agency noted, adding that meth is also increasingly being used in fake prescription pills.

State of play: The DEA said the fake prescription pills are being mass-produced by domestic and international criminal drug syndicates, and they're being made to resemble prescription opioids and stimulants, such as Oxycontin, Xanax and Adderall.

  • This is the first such public safety alert the agency issued in six years, according to CNN.
  • The fake prescription pills are widely accessible online and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, per the DEA.

What they're saying: "Drug traffickers are using fake pills to exploit the opioid crisis and prescription drug misuse in the United States, bringing overdose deaths and violence to American communities," the DEA statement read.

  • "These counterfeit pills have been seized by DEA in every U.S. state, and in unprecedented quantities."

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2021 - Health

U.S. sees record high of 96,000 drug overdose deaths in 12 month period

Tramadol pills, an opioid. Photo: Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded over 96,000 deaths from drug overdoses in a twelve-month period ending in March 2021, according to provisional data released Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's a nearly 30% jump over the preceding 12 months and coincides with one of the deadliest periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, when stay-at-home orders radically changed daily life for most Americans.

2 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes mix-and-match for COVID booster shots

Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on Wednesday gave its approval for Americans to get booster shots that are different from the COVID vaccine they initially received.

Why it matters: The recommendation from the FDA, which also authorized booster shots for people who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Wednesday, paves the way for an expansion of booster shots.

GOP congressman forfeits committee seats after indictment

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) on Wednesday stepped down from his committee assignments after being indicted for lying to federal investigators amid a probe into illegal campaign donations.

What they're saying: In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Fortenberry said he is "grateful for the outpouring of support from my friends and colleagues as we work against the injustice confronting me."