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Criminals Crank Up Their Counterfeit Drug-Making Efforts

The Department of Justice recently announced that eBay has “agreed to pay $59 million and to enhance its compliance program to resolve allegations that it violated the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in connection with thousands of pill presses and encapsulating machines that were sold through its website.” Those pill-press purchases are just one more sign that drug counterfeiting operations are on the rise, and consumers should be very aware of these dangerous scams.
The purchasers of the pill presses and encapsulating machines are almost certainly criminals who plan to produce counterfeit versions of prescription drugs currently on the market.
At least that’s what the DoJ thinks. “‘Through its website, eBay made it easy for individuals across the country to obtain the type of dangerous machines that are often used to make counterfeit pills. Our investigation revealed that some of these machines were even sold to individuals who were later convicted of drug related crimes,' said U.S. Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest for the District of Vermont."
Of course, one of the primary ingredients put into these counterfeit pills is fentanyl, which is wreaking havoc on so many lives these days. DEA Administrator Anne Milgram says, “Fentanyl—pressed into fake pills that look like real prescription medications—is killing Americans. Drug traffickers buy the tools to make fake pills, like pill presses, online.”
People buy these pills often persuaded they are the same drug being sold in U.S. pharmacies, only at a much lower price. And a bipartisan group of U.S. politicians has perpetuated this idea.
In the past, the fakes were produced by criminals, often operating in foreign countries such as China. The purchase of the pill presses through eBay implies more criminals are now operating domestically. Selling fake pills laced with fentanyl that look like brand-name drugs can be very profitable—and very deadly.
For decades the Institute for Policy Innovation has been warning about counterfeit and compromised drugs bought online.
When we highlighted the risks counterfeit drug sites posed, their defenders often replied “show me the bodies.” We said there were some and there would be more if the online fakes continued to appear. Today, there are, sadly, lots of dead bodies, and more coming.
And if an explosion of fake pills wasn’t bad enough, criminals are now producing fake injectable drugs, primarily the new weight-loss drugs Zepbound (Eli Lilly) and Wegovy (Novo Nordisk). Making large-molecule, injectable drugs is more complicated and more costly for legitimate manufacturers. And demand is outstripping supply, opening the door for criminals to sell to unsuspecting consumers.
Counterfeit drugs, whether pills or injectables, are dangerous. Consumers should always check with their doctor and rely only on legitimate, trusted sources.