Deadly drugs ending up in counterfeit pills; startling number found in Georgia

ATLANTA — The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said deadly and real drugs are ending up in counterfeit pills. The GBI crime lab is finding a startling number of the pills showing up across Georgia.

The GBI's lead drug chemist, Deneen Kilcrease, said the crime lab found Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb counties have had high occurrences of counterfeit pills, but it is happening all over metro Atlanta and all over the state. The fakes are often more deadly than the real thing.

A mother told Channel 2 Action News she believes counterfeit Xanax caused her son's fatal overdose in 2016.

"I found him on the bathroom floor, like so many other mothers," Jennifer Hodge said of her son, Robbie.

The GBI said the state crime lab has identified 100 drug seizures in roughly the past year in which the pills turned out to be counterfeit.

"The logo and markings on the tablet would indicate one ingredient, and yet when we tested it in the crime lab, we found something completely different," Kilcrease said.


Kilcrease said often, the ingredients in the fakes are so much stronger than the real thing, they could kill you.

"In many of the pills, we found several different types of fentanyls, which as we know, are very deadly at very low doses," Kilcrease said.

Kilcrease said fake oxycodone pills seized in Madison, Georgia, contain Furanylfentanyl, and that case was among roughly 3,500 a pair of GBI interns reviewed to get a handle on how often counterfeits are turning up in Georgia.

GBI's Nelly Miles said Furanylfentanyl has already caused the deaths of many Georgians.

"Some of the fentanyls that we're seeing in these fake drugs include carfentanil," Miles said.

The drugs found in the pills also include Cyclopropylfentanyl, which is the same drug linked to an outbreak in middle Georgia last summer.

"I'm thankful that we're being honest and open and saying that we have a problem," Hodge said.

Hodge said her son may have known the pill he took was fake, but she'll never know for sure because he's no longer here.

Kilcrease said most of those who consume counterfeits don't know what they're taking.

"The bottom line is this: if you make a decision to buy a pill on the street, and you make a decision to take that pill, that decision may be your last," Kilcrease said.

Hodge is a real estate agent and started a nonprofit called Realty4Rehab where agents and home sellers team up to donate a portion of the commission to drug treatment.