Experts: Counterfeit Pills are Tough to Track, Impossible to Trust

April 23, 2018 10:17 PM

Drug experts say counterfeit pills are mainly purchased online, making it that much more difficult for investigators to trace to the source.

It's one reason critics say law enforcement made a mistake when they left Prince's computer at his home for 5 days following his death.
The laptop may have been able to provide some answers as to who sold Prince the drugs that killed him.


RELATED: No Criminal Charges in Superstar Prince's Fentanyl Overdose Death

Investigators found counterfeit pills all over the musician's home. Thought to have been Vicodin, the pills were actually laced with the Fentanyl authorities believe killed the Minnesota icon.

Fentanyl also isn't always easy to detect in users, according to addiction specialist and founder of Alltyr Clinic Dr. Mark Willenbring.

"Most standard drug tests for drugs of abuse don't include fentanyl," he said. "They're constantly inventing new molecules that we can't detect."

Dr. Willenbring has recently ordered special tests to help him learn if his patients may be taking the lethal drug.

"One concern I've had recently is some of them could be using fentanyl and we wouldn't know it," he said.

RELATED: The Fight Against Fentanyl and the Forensic Chemists Who Track It

"Very often, we discover these counterfeit pills through deaths," Brian Marquart, the Coordinator of the state's Drug and Gang Task Force, said.

He says he's started to see the sale of counterfeit drugs come to Minnesota over the past five years, adding most of it starts online.

"Those investigations are very time-consuming.  All the information is contained electronically and that may or may not be manipulated," Marquart said. Even our experts sometimes get thrown curve balls.  Sometimes, the information that would help us in the case just is not available."

In November, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigators traveled to Chicago to learn just how fentanyl is getting to Minnesota in the first place.

They found pure powder regularly being shipped from other countries into the U.S. right through the postal service.

"You can't prevent it. It's impossible. It's physically impossible," Willenbring said.

Dr. Willenbring believes much of the use and abuse of fentanyl is no accident.

"It's not about prescription drugs anymore," he said." "It hasn't been for several years. It's about heroin and fentanyl."


Katherine Johnson

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