Health Highlights: Feb. 29, 2016

Health Highlights: Feb. 29, 2016

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Potentially Deadly Painkiller Being Disguised as Less Powerful Drugs

Officials across the United States say they are seeing a growing number of cases where the potent painkiller fentanyl is disguised as less powerful pain drugs.

In recent months, there have been two dozen cases of fentanyl marked as oxycodone or Percocet, according to Tennessee authorities, the Associated Press reported.

Last summer, the San Francisco health department said several overdoses were caused by tablets that were labeled as Xanax but contained fentanyl. In Cleveland, a man was arrested after federal agents seized more than 900 fentanyl pills marked as oxycodone.

And in Canada, officals have issued warnings about recent cases of supposed oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl.

“These pills are truly a fatal overdose waiting to happen,” Carole Rendon, acting U.S. attorney in Cleveland, told the AP.

Fentanyl is cheap to make illegally, so dealers can make more money by disguising it as oxycodone, which typically sells for more, Rendon explained.

“People might otherwise say, ‘I know I can abuse this much of oxycodone,’ and they may be in for a really, really bad surprise when they find out that’s fentanyl and not oxycodone,” Dr. Thomas Gilson, Cuyahoga County medical examiner, told the AP.

Disguised pills likely caused some of the county’s 19 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in January, he said.

Fentanyl is 25 to 40 times stronger than heroin and in health care is typically used to ease chronic pain in dying cancer patients, the AP reported.

Between late 2013 and early 2015, fentanyl-related overdoses killed more than 700 people across the U.S., according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“The fact that fentanyl has been found in this form should hopefully make people nervous that do abuse these types of opiate pills, that they could be getting their hands on something even more lethal,” said DEA spokesman Rich Isaacson.

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