Plastic surgeons were alerted Thursday to an escalating national crisis that could place their patients at risk of death.
Fake pain medications are easier to obtain than ever, and a growing number of them are lethal.
These pills, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has warned, are illegally manufactured to look almost exactly like legitimate opioids—such as those prescribed for pain management after surgery—yet they may contain no actual medication, and very often contain a potentially deadly amount of fentanyl or methamphetamine.
For every 10 fake pills that contain fentanyl, six of them contain a potentially deadly dose of it, according to DEA Laboratory testing.
Plastic surgery patients seeking pain relief, or who develop an uncontrollable dependence on pain medication after cosmetic surgery, could end up losing their lives if they take these fake pills.
“We believe that a conversation with patients will save lives and prevent tragedies,” says the fentanyl advisory, issued Thursday, February 2nd, by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and The Aesthetic Society.
An October 2021 release referenced in the advisory suggests that more than 1 in 5 patients (21.2%) who had not filled a prescription for opioids in the year prior to their surgery, were still taking opioids three months to one year after their surgery.
Study authors noted then that unless these patients had cancer or chronic pain prior to surgery, “very few patients should still need opioids three months after surgery,” according to the release.
“Counterfeit pills are easily accessible and often sold on the street, social media and e-commerce platforms, making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including minors. Many pills are physically indistinguishable by their appearance from prescription opioids…. Patients who seek medications in this fashion are exposed to the risk of fentanyl overdose and death.”Counterfeit Prescription Medications That Contain Fentanyl and Patient Safety, Patient Safety Advisory, Feb 3, 2023
Plastic surgeons are being advised to consider adding material on the risks of fake medications and fentanyl to their websites and pre-surgery paperwork, and to communicate thoroughly with patients about the deadly risk of fake pills and fentanyl.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says that the only safe medications are “ones prescribed by a trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.”
“Never trust your own eyes to determine if a pill is legitimate,” a DEA release advises.