Two men, one in his late 20s and the other in his early 30s, died in Tralee last week and gardaí in Kerry believe counterfeit tranquillisers purchased over the internet may be involved in the deaths.
The tragic deaths came after recent warnings from the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) which urged people to never purchase medicines online.
Releasing figures that showed the number of counterfeit medications seized by gardaí has surged by over 300,000 in the past 12 months, IMB chief Pat O’Mahony said there are simply no guarantees as to the safety, quality or effectiveness of the products.
A record 822,484 medicinal products were detained at the country’s airports and harbours last year — up 66% from the 494,502 items seized in 2009.
It is understood the men who died in Tralee were heroin users who had been trying to quit the drug. One of the men had signed up for residential treatment that was due to begin this week.
Gardaí found quantities of what they believe is counterfeit Xanax on the body of the 28-year-old who was found dead in his home on Monday of last week.
Three days later, on the morning of his funeral, his friend, who was in his 30s, also died of what they believe was cardiac arrest. He had been using prescription sedatives, but gardaí believe he may have mixed them with the fake tablets or misjudged the quantities.
A spokesperson for the Health Research Board said that benzodiazepines, which are legally prescribed sedative drugs, are the most commonly implicated drug in drug-related deaths in this country.
Toxicology results are awaited in both deaths.
Without commenting on the specifics of the investigation in Tralee, Detective Sergeant Declan Liddane issued a warning about the use of counterfeit prescription drugs, which he said were flooding the county.