Illegal Pill Presses: An Overlooked Threat to American Patients – 2021 Update

Illegal Pill Presses Pose Serious, Nationwide Threat To American Patients And Communities

Continued research by the Partnership for Safe Medicines and the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators reveals that illegal pill presses still contribute to U.S. overdose deaths

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 3, 2021) – Today, the Partnership for Safe Medicines and the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators released an updated report titled Illegal Pill Presses: An Overlooked Threat to American Patients. The report shows that, in the two years since the initial report, fentanyl deaths are higher than ever and still rising. While counterfeit pills are seized by law enforcement in incidents across the country, these pills – created by clandestine pill presses around the globe – continue to be sold on the streets and on the dark web.

Drug traffickers use pill presses to manufacture thousands of counterfeit pills within minutes, often with illegally imported fentanyl, which can be deadly even in tiny doses. Law enforcement agencies and policymakers across the country have been working to address the opioid epidemic, including the danger posed by counterfeits. However, the death rate continues to rise as evidenced by the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The swelling epidemic of drug trafficking makes a mockery of the current laws and their protections,” said Lisa McElhaney, Chief Operating Officer of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. “Better prevention tools—including those that would control illicit pill presses—are necessary to address the surge. We need to focus on border controls, information sharing, and nationwide oversight to curb the appeal of dealing and using.”

The updated report shows that minimal progress has been made in the legal and regulatory landscape of pill presses in the last two years, and the prospect is dim for advancing the necessary policies that could protect Americans.

Other topics covered in the report update include:

  • Updates to pill press legislation and counterfeiting statutes federally as well as in Florida, New Jersey, Utah, and Texas;
  • Online efforts to shut down sales of pill presses and molds, where social media has become a significant vehicle in the sale of counterfeit pills, particularly to teenagers and young adults; and
  • A study on Florida’s pill press legislation, wherein using a pill press in the illegal production of controlled substances is a second- or third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of five years in prison.

“It’s difficult to watch the number of deaths and the number of counterfeits continue to rise year after year,” said Samuel J. Louis, Former Deputy Criminal Chief of the Program Fraud Group, Department of Justice. “On the positive side, we have success in law enforcement’s response to these crimes, and the law enforcement community is applying learnings to new cases all the time. However, to make a real and lasting impact on this problem, we need a more holistic and coordinated approach.”

For more information and to download a full copy of the report, visit www.safemedicines.org.

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