Counterfeit painkillers linked to several deaths in Sacramento turn up in Bay Area

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- For weeks, counterfeit prescription pills have been turning up in the Sacramento area and leading to deadly overdoses.

A Bay Area Health Department confirms Wednesday those fake painkillers are now in the Bay Area.

Contra Costa Health Services says, since March, four people have overdosed on what appears to be counterfeit prescription medications laced with fentanyl.

"Fifty to 100 times more potent that the oral opiate medications usually prescribed," said Deputy Health Officer Louise McNitt.

People are buying the counterfeit pills on the street thinking they're taking the painkiller norco.

"I think people have a false sense of security if they're buying a medication they think is a prescription medication," McNitt said.

To help get the word out, Contra Costa County Health Services is distributing warnings to needle exchange programs, emergency rooms, clinics and even high schools.

People have overdosed across the Bay Area. In Sacramento, at least 12 deaths have been linked to fentanyl since late March.

The executive director of the HIV Education and Prevention Project of Alameda County (HEPPAC) says this is nothing new.

"There's always a wave of this incident occurring where drugs are laced with something that can kill," said HEPPAV executive director Loris Matterson.

She says a tool already exists to help, drug that can treat an overdose in an emergency.

"Active substance users, they need access to norcan, their family members, their support networks, so that will address the issue and reduce deaths," Matterson said.

Health officials are urging people to only take medication purchased from a licensed pharmacy.
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