So, OK, having back pain is awful… but read on to find out what happened to Maggie DiVita Crowley.  Maggie was 34, a wife, daughter, sister, and aunt. She lived in Wellington, Florida, USA. Maggie stopped breathing and died after she took a pill to ease her back pain. Her sisters Caroline and Kristin tell her story to raise awareness about the dangers of falsified medicines and to stop others from becoming victims of fake meds.

Growing up in New Jersey, Maggie was part of a tight-knit family. After college, she moved with her husband Shaun to Florida and became a manager at Outback Steakhouse – a job she simply loved. Despite being miles apart, Maggie stayed in touch with her family and talked regularly with her siblings and nephews on the phone. In September 2016, on her first day of work in a new store, she injured her back. To control the pain, one of her co-workers sold her an oxycodone pill. On that same evening, Maggie and her husband had planned to go out for dinner. Shaun thought it was strange that his wife was spending so long getting ready in the bedroom, so he went to check on her. He was shocked and bewildered to find her lying lifelessly in bed. Later, he learned that Maggie had taken just half of the oxycodone pill her co-worker had given her.

Maggie died almost immediately, but it took a while before the cause of her death became known. Maggie’s family believed she had passed away due to an accidental drug overdose from legitimate medicine. Months later autopsy results reported that she had of fentanyl poisoning. A criminal investigation revealed that her co-worker had purchased the supposed oxycodone pill via a middleman, from a surgeon based in the small Florida city of Vero Beach. It turned out that the surgeon manufactured the pill himself using imported fentanyl. The co-worker, the middleman, and the surgeon were sentenced to prison in 2018. In Maggie’s case justice has taken place, but guilty verdicts cannot ease the family’s pain:

“The things where it’s the five of us and there should be six, it’s physically painful. Our family is very, very close, and I think my parents take comfort in having us around, but at the same time it’s difficult because there’s always someone missing.” (Kristen, Maggie’s older sister)

Kristin told Maggie’s story at a congressional briefing about counterfeit drugs in America, which was organized by Fight the Fakes partner, The Partnership for Safe Medicines in January 2019.  Tune in at the 14:00 mark to listen to Kristen and Caroline speaking about the tragic loss of their sister –>

Maggie is not the only victim in the United States to pass away after unknowingly taking fentanyl-laced falsified medicine. The United States is currently experiencing one of the worst opioid epidemics in its history, with President Donald Trump declaring a public health emergency in October 2017. A 2018 report compiled by The Partnership for Safe Medicines revealed that counterfeit medicines made with fentanyl were found in 43 U.S. states, with counterfeit-related deaths confirmed in 22 of them. By February 2019, that number had risen to 46 states, with deaths reported in 29.

Carrie Luther, who also spoke during the briefing, lost her 29-year-old son Tosh to a falsified Xanax pill which contained a lethal dose of fentanyl in October 2015. Fight the Fakes shared her story in August of last year. Click here to read about her and more mothers whose children have been victims of falsified medicines.

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