Tennessee Health Officials Issue Warning About Counterfeit Drugs

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

Tennessee has seen a rise in overdose deaths and counterfeit pills. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health, and other groups held a news conference on Monday, October 11, to warn Tennesseans about this epidemic. 

During the conference, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said, “I want to remind Tennesseans that one pill can kill.”

The health agencies warned people against buying any counterfeit pills off of the streets. 

“In 2020, we lost 3,030 Tennesseans to overdoses,” Piercey said on Monday. “That is an alarming 45% increase from 2019 to 2020. That even exceeds the national rate of 30% in the same time period.” 

TBI Director David Rausch told Tennesseans that buying knock-off medications puts their lives at risk. 

Rausch said, “So let me be clear: If you’re buying pills on the street in our state, you’re gambling with your life. Those making these pills don’t care about quality control, they only care about profiting from other people’s addictions.”

According to News Channel 5, these pills are made in labs illegally and are made to look like real prescriptions. They are also known to contain harmful substances like meth and fentanyl. 

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The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a public safety alert for the first time in six years in regards to the influx of illegal pills. In a report they released last month, it was revealed 9.5 million fake pills were seized just this year. 

According to Rausch, there’s a possibility of “adversarial nations’ state actors” using counterfeit drugs in order to “intentionally kill Americans.” 

He said the most important thing is to stop the sale of these pills entirely. 

“Stopping it starts by targeting demand, and that requires those who battle addiction or those who know someone who does,” Rausch said. 


During the conference, health agencies also spoke about the Regional Overdose Specialist Program which has worked to help countless Tennesseans fight addiction. 

Marie Williams, the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said “Since the program began in October of 2017, these individuals have distributed more than 232,000 units of naloxone and have saved more than 30,000 lives.”

In 2020, the CDC reported over 90,000 overdose deaths, according to News Channel 5. 

“Unbeknownst to the people receiving them, they think they’re just receiving Percocet or Oxycontin, but to boost up these pills… drug dealers are surreptitiously putting in fentanyl,” a former DEA agent, Calvin Higgins, told Channel 5 just a few weeks before the conference. “It’s easier for them to get their one pill processing plant, stamp out the pills as fake but still put the name and label on there so they appear to be real.”

According to Higgins, these pills have become easily accessible, especially online and through social media. A week before the conference, agents found over 11 pounds of fentanyl that had been hidden in a car battery, enough to kill 2.5 million people. 


About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

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