Fentanyl and Counterfeit Prescription Drugs: Facts and Myths

Expert answers questions on drug’s history, manufacturing, testing and more

Fentanyl’s growth from its original design as an effective surgical pain management tool to a leading cause of overdose death and concern has happened quickly – with severe consequences.

In Colorado last year, 1,881 people died from drug overdoses, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) – more than from diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and lung and breast cancer individually. Half of those accidental overdose deaths (912 people, most under age 44) died from an overdose involving fentanyl, a spike from 540 deaths in 2020.

Part of an ongoing national trend tracked by the CDPHE for the past 20 years, Colorado’s trend of overdose deaths mirror those seen nationally.

Robert Valuck, PhD, RPh, professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and executive director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, tracks fentanyl’s impacts on Colorado and the country.

In the following Q&A, Valuck lays out fentanyl’s history – from invention to its addition in counterfeit prescription drugs. He also dispels myths surrounding the drug and explains how to counteract fentanyl’s rise with information and treatment.

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