DEA launches campaign against fake meds production kit

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has kicked off an outreach programme targeting online retailers who are facilitating the production of fake prescription drugs.

The campaign is aimed at sites that are selling equipment like tablet presses used to make pills, die punches to emboss them with markings and sometimes trademarked logos, and chemicals that can be used in illicit drug synthesis.

These items are commonly used in the manufacture of illicit pills such as opioids and tranquiliser drugs like alprazolam, and sellers may be unaware of the regulations and restrictions over their sale and ownership, says the DEA.

The falsified medicines are often copies of well-established brands like OxyContin or Xanax, but don’t have the same active ingredients. Instead, they are often based on ultra-powerful drugs like fentanyl, heroin, and isotonitazene that can dramatically increase the risk of an overdose.

More than 67,300 Americans died from drug-involved overdose in 2018, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Earlier this year the US government also launched a campaign targeting operators of websites used to sell unapproved and fake medicines directly to the public.

“DEA strongly encourages all online retailers to take the steps necessary to help disrupt the illicit manufacturing of dangerous counterfeit pills that are nearly indistinguishable from controlled prescription medications,” said the agency in a statement.

It also said it “recognises the importance of collaborative efforts between government and the private sector to battle the drug crisis.”

Some online retailers – including Amazon – have already banned all sales of tableting and encapsulating machines and pill punches from their platforms, according to the DEA.

However, at the time of writing pill presses were being advertised on Amazon’s US and UK sites, which corresponds to the findings of a recent report by

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