Warning Issued About Counterfeit Prescription Pills

Monday, February 8, 2016
The leaders of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee Department of Health, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services issued a unified message Monday, warning the public about an increase in the prevalence of counterfeit prescription drugs in Tennessee.

“TBI Drug Agents and Forensic Scientists are discovering that pills being sold on the street as Percocet are actually fake, but with very dangerous consequences. More and more, we are seeing drugs being made in clandestine labs that contain fentanyl,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “We need to make the public abundantly clear that this is a life-threatening danger.


"Drug dealers are preying on citizens of our state who have drug addictions," Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. "Fake pills containing fentanyl are a new, deadly twist to the drug challenge we face.  The Governor's Public Safety Action Plan addresses the drug challenge in its many parts. We need a sense of urgency."

Officials said that in recent months, approximately two dozen case submissions from counties across Tennessee have shared a common, concerning trend: Pills shaped, colored, and stamped to look like a particular type of prescription medication have proven to be something different in laboratory analysis. 

In May 2015, a Tennessee law enforcement agency recovered what appeared to be several 30mg pills of oxycodone during a traffic stop. Each was the same size and featured the signature A/215 stamp characteristic of oxycodone. However, laboratory analysis performed by TBI forensic scientists indicated the pills were counterfeit and did not contain oxycodone. Instead, they contained fentanyl, a pain killer 50 times as potent as heroin that can be deadly in high doses.

“When people sell fake pills appearing to be oxycodone but actually containing the more powerful pain medicine fentanyl, lives are at risk,” said Tennessee Department of Health Chief Medical Officer David Reagan, MD, PhD. “Buying or using fake pills is unwise for many reasons, the most important of which is the possibility of death from overdose. We strongly advise those with dependence on pain pills to seek help, as addiction is a treatable disease. Family and friends of those with dependence should obtain naloxone, the overdose antidote now available in Tennessee.”

In late January, while executing a search warrant at a home in the 4600 block of Massa Road in Cookeville, authorities discovered approximately 300 pills stamped with markings characteristic of Percocet. However, laboratory analysis performed by TBI forensic scientists determined the pills instead contained fentanyl, a pain killer 50 times as potent as heroin that can be deadly in high doses.

“If you buy a pill off the street, it’s like playing Russian roulette,” said Winchester Police Chief Dennis Young. “You just don’t know what’s in it. Just one pill, or even half a pill, could be enough to kill you.”

The Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services says there are resources available for those addicted to opioid-based drugs without having to satisfy their fix by purchasing drugs from street dealers. “These transactions with total strangers are resulting in serious drug overdoses and in some cases death,” says Commissioner E. Douglas Varney. “Individuals are putting themselves and those they care for at risk for a cheap high. If you or someone you care for is caught up in this spiral of addiction, please reach out for help from one of the many treatment centers across the state. To find substance use treatment resources across the state, call the Tennessee REDLINE anytime at 1-800-889-9789.” 


Tennessee To Receive Another $14 Million In Fight Against Opioid Crisis

Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander Wednesday announced Tennessee will receive a nearly $14 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services in the state’s fight against the opioid crisis. The state received nearly $14 million last year as well – both grants were funded by the 21st Century Cures Act that Senator Alexander authored and President Obama signed ... (click for more)

CHI Memorial Mobile Health Coach To Visit Patten Towers

CHI Memorial’s mobile health coach will provide mammography screenings at Patten Towers, 1 East 11 St. in Chattanooga, on Monday, April 30 from 8-11 a.m. "All women should have one screening mammogram between the ages of 35-40. After age 40, a screening mammogram is recommended every year.  Any woman who meets these age guidelines and has not had a mammogram in the ... (click for more)

Federal Funding Allocated For Future Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans Home

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Tennessee State Veterans Home Executive Director Ed Harries announced the receipt of the $26,224,263 award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) State Veterans Home Grants program today. The grant will provide the federal funding needed to build the future Bradley County ... (click for more)

VA Issues Water And Road Traffic Cautions In Areas Of Savannah Creek, Harrison Bay And Chickamauga Marina

The Tennessee Valley Authority is issuing water and road traffic cautions for transmission line work that will span from just north of Savannah Creek to Chickamauga Dam. This work is part of several projects to upgrade TVA’s transmission system to ensure continued delivery of 99.999 percent reliable power. Area residents should expect to see helicopters working in this area ... (click for more)

A Tribute For My Brother – Sgt. Jonathan Gardner, U.S. Army

Seven years ago today, my family and I found out that my brother, Sgt. Jonathan D. Gardner, was seriously injured by a roadside bomb, (explosively formed penetrator - EFP), while on a mission in Kuwait. The EFP went through the bottom of his seat and put a softball size hole in his upper thigh. The doctors said that if the bomb had entered the Humvee an inch to the right, he ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Black Telephone

If you have never seen one in an antique store you wouldn’t know that the first telephones were contained in a not-so-small wooden box that had a snout-looking mouth piece and a separate speaker that you would hold on your ear while you talked. This was many years ago when phones were fun as compared to today’s tiny cell phones that rudely interrupt us from the task-at-hand both ... (click for more)