Warning issued after 'dangerous drug' found in at least three NC deaths
Posted February 19, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Medical examiners found acetyl fentanyl, a synthetic drug that is up to five times more potent than heroin, present in the bodies of at least three people who died recently in Sampson, Person and Transylvania counties, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.
Their final death certificates are pending, DHHS said.
"It is important for law enforcement, medical professionals and our citizens to be aware that this dangerous drug is in North Carolina," acting state Health Director Robin Gary Cummings said in a statement. "Acetyl fentanyl is another addition to a growing list of synthetic drugs and represents a serious threat to public health."
Acetyl fentanyl, known on the street as "White China," is not available as a prescription in the U.S.
Last June, the CDC issued an alert to public health agencies, state laboratories, medical examiners, coroners, and emergency departments to be on the lookout for the drug. The CDC also advised emergency departments and emergency medical services to ensure that they have adequate supply of naloxone, an emergency antidote to opioid overdose.
DHHS officials say overdose deaths in North Carolina have increased by 300 percent since 1999.
The alert came after Rhode Island officials reported that 14 overdose deaths from acetyl fentanyl between March and June 2013. Since then, the drug has been linked to additional deaths in Pennsylvania, Louisiana and now North Carolina.