Joyce Aims to Crack Down on Counterfeit Pill Production with New Legislation

Takes action following the tragic overdose deaths of two OSU students

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) joined Congressman Ken Buck (CO-04) in introducing the Stop Pills That Kill Act. This legislation would implement new penalties for counterfeit pill production. The bill comes in the wake of the deaths of two Ohio State University (OSU) students, Tiffany Iler and Jessica Lopez, who overdosed on counterfeit Adderall pills laced with fentanyl.

“Drug traffickers are mass-producing fake pills, often with fentanyl, without any care as to who their poisons kill,” said Congressman Joyce. “I’m proud to lead the effort to ramp up criminal penalties to deter this illegal activity, which has increasingly targeted minors and young adults. We cannot allow these criminals to continue to break apart families and threaten the safety of our communities. This important legislation will help authorities crack down on the rising production of counterfeit pills and prevent tragic overdose deaths like Tiffany and Jessica’s.”

Many counterfeit pills are made to look like prescription opioids such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, and Xanax, or, as seen in the recent tragedy at OSU, stimulants like Adderall. These fake prescription pills are easily accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, making them available to anyone with a smartphone.

In 2021, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized over 20 million counterfeit pills, more than the previous two years combined. These pills were often laced with lethal doses of fentanyl. In fact, recent DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose. These counterfeit pills have been seized by DEA in every U.S. state in unprecedented quantities.

“In Eastern Colorado and across the nation, families, businesses, and communities continue to face hardships due to the opioid epidemic,” said Congressman Buck. “As this public health crisis continues to fester, this legislation — supported by Republicans and Democrats in both Houses of Congress — will take an important step in a multifaceted approach to crack down on dangerous counterfeit pills that are killing Americans in droves.”

Specifically, the Stop Pills That Kill Act would ensure that existing penalties for possessing paraphernalia used to manufacture methamphetamine would also apply to possessing paraphernalia used to make counterfeit pills that contain methamphetamine, fentanyl, and fentanyl analogues. Additionally, the legislation directs the United States Sentencing Commission to review and amend the sentencing guidelines to increase legal penalties for a defendant who knowingly misrepresented a counterfeit pill that contains fentanyl or a fentanyl analogue as a genuine prescription drug or over-the-counter medication. 

The bill also requires the DEA to issue a comprehensive plan to tackle the increasing spread of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl or methamphetamine. Additionally, it requires the Attorney General to work with the DEA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy to issue an annual report to Congress, with a goal of helping lawmakers learn more about the scope of seizures, investigations, prosecutions, and public awareness of the dangers associated with pills laced with illicit drugs.

The Stop Pills That Kill Act, which has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is supported by the National District Attorneys Association, National Rural Health Association, National Narcotics Officers Association Coalition, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Community Anti-Drug Coalition, National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Song for Charlie and Victims of Illicit Drugs.

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