Authorities unveiled a multi-agency campaign Wednesday to warn people about the dangers of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, many of which contain the deadly drug fentanyl.
“The manufacturers of these counterfeit medicines only care about making money at the expense of our most vulnerable communities and community members,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a Wednesday news conference at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles. “These medicines contain no active pharmaceutical ingredients.”
The campaign’s slogan is “bad meds kill real people,” Luna said, adding that it comprised three pillars: “education, awareness, and enforcement.”
Luna also unveiled a public safety video featuring actor Danny Trejo.
“We’re in a crisis,” Trejo said at the news conference. “There’s a surprise in every pill — and the surprise might be death. You no longer know what you’re taking.”
Also at the news conference was Matt Capelouto, whose 20-year-old daughter died in December 2019 after taking one-half of a counterfeit pill that she thought was oxycodone, but contained a lethal dose of fentanyl.
“Alex was a sophomore in college, attending a major university on a full academic scholarship,” Capelouto said. “She was a very smart, deeply empathetic young lady who wanted nothing more than to go into a profession where she could help others.”
Capelouto said his daughter had suffered from depression since she was a teenager.
“With her depression came severe anxiety and insomnia …,” Capelouto said. “As with physical pain, people suffering from depression will seek relief. This relief is often sought under duress, and those suffering don’t always make cognitive, rational decisions.
“And so, on Dec. 22, 2019, Alex purchased what she believed to be the prescription painkiller oxycodone,” Capelouto said. “She took half the pill before going to bed, and was killed within minutes.”
Capelouto said he was working with Democratic and Republican senators introducing state Senate Bill 44, also known as Alexandra’s Law, which would target drug dealers, who could be prosecuted for murder under certain circumstances.
The multi-agency campaign included the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies and the Crime Stoppers organization.