Attorney general warns of ‘deadly’ pills

OPIOID CRISIS: Fentanyl pills seized during Western New York investigation.

BUFFALO — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has issued an urgent public health alert about a dangerous and potentially lethal new drug that has made its way into Western New York.

During the course of an ongoing, coast-to-coast investigation into drug trafficking in Western New York, investigators with Schneiderman’s Organized Crime Task Force intercepted a package containing 500 fentanyl-laced blue pills disguised as replica oxycodone. This is the first time fentanyl-laced pills have appeared in Western New York. Similar fentanyl-laced pills disguised as oxycodone have been linked to several overdose deaths in California.

“These dealers were playing Russian Roulette with the lives of New Yorkers,” Schneiderman said. “These poison pills are the latest troubling development in our state’s opioid crisis. I want to warn strongly against taking any prescription drugs you did not get directly from the pharmacy yourself. A single fentanyl-laced pill can kill you.”

Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and a dose just the size of a few grains of sand can be lethal. Drug dealers often cut fentanyl into other drugs because it is relatively inexpensive and can be mixed with other substances to increase profits.

Schneiderman said the blue pills, which were designed to look like prescription-strength oxycodone, are extremely dangerous as the user could ingest a potentially deadly quantity of fentanyl. The pills were likely mixed by hand, so there is no way to know exactly how much fentanyl is in each pill, he said.

If you believe you have seen these pills, call the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-771-7755 or the Niagara County Drug Task Force at 439-4442.

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Separately, after Schneiderman’s alert, Niagara County officials announced an emergency meeting of the legislature’s Opiate Addiction/Overdose Strategy Implementation Standing Committee (OASIS) will be called to review county and law enforcement agency policies, prosecutorial decision-making and other factors influencing the opioid crisis in Niagara County. The date of that meeting was not set as of late Thursday.

In a statement released by the county, legislator Rebecca Wydysh, OASIS chairman, said, “If you think that fentanyl may have been ingested by someone, either accidentally or because they are a drug user, the only responsible thing to do is call 911. We have first-responders who are trained in dealing with opiates, with heroin, with overdoses, and with the unique and extra-deadly threat posed by fentanyl. There is no time to take a ‘wait-and-see’ approach with this poison on the streets.

“We are giving this matter our fullest attention, and are grateful to the Attorney General for highlighting what is both a public health threat and a new worry for our first responders and our medical community.”

In the county’s statement, District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek pledged her office would attempt to prosecute for manslaughter any seller of the counterfeit pills whose dealings contribute to a fatal overdose.

Source: Lockport Journal