Acetyl fentanyl overdose fatalities--Rhode Island, March-May 2013.MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2013 Aug 30; 62(34):703-4.MM
In May 2013, the Rhode Island State Health Laboratories noticed an unusual pattern of toxicology results among 10 overdose deaths of suspected illicit drug users that had occurred during March 7-April 11, 2013. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for fentanyl in blood was positive for fentanyl in all 10 cases, but confirmatory gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) did not detect fentanyl. The mass spectrum was instead consistent with acetyl fentanyl, a fentanyl analog. Acetyl fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has not been documented in illicit drug use or overdose deaths, and is not available as a prescription drug anywhere. Animal studies suggest that acetyl fentanyl is up to five times more potent than heroin as an analgesic.