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Local overdoses blamed on fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills

An image of counterfeit prescription drugs provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office. The pills...
An image of counterfeit prescription drugs provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office. The pills often mimic the look of opioids like oxycodone using similar shapes and symbols.(KCRG)
Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 1:14 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Georgia attorney general is investigating overdoses in Richmond County that are blamed on counterfeit medications.

The Georgia Department of Public Health “has alerted our office to a suspected cluster of overdoses related to counterfeit pills which may contain fentanyl. The primary areas that appear to be affected so far are Richmond County, Chatham County, and the Rome area,” Attorney General Chris Carr tweeted today.

Counterfeit pills have been a problem in the past couple of years in other states, including California, where they often end up after being smuggled across the border.

The pills are manufactured illegally and without regulation and passed off as prescription medications and sold on the street. They often look very much like the legitimate pills, including logos and markings, but can be rougher-looking due to the rigors of being smuggled.

The counterfeit pills often contain the potent and potentially deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The danger is that in an unregulated environment run by drug cartels, the amount of fentanyl in these pills is unknown and can be inconsistent from one pill to the next, often leading to overdoses.

When federal authorities sampled tablets seized between January 2019 and March 2019, they found 27 percent contained a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

Not all counterfeit pills are made abroad.

In November, two Burke County men were indicted on federal drug trafficking charges for operating an illegal pill factory, according to prosecutors.

Cedrick Gabriel Brown, a/k/a “Pop,” 47, and Telly Savalas Carswell, 46, both of Midville, were charged after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration began an investigation with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office. A May 7 search of a home yielded a pill press along with methamphetamine, heroin and other drugs, nearly $9,000 in cash, and paraphernalia related to drug trafficking, according to prosecutors.

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