Philadelphia, Pa. – A new synthetic opioid first identified in 2018 named brorphine (also known as "Purple Heroin" or "Purple Fentanyl") recently hit the U.S. illicit drug market and has already caused at least 120 overdose deaths. The drug, similar to fentanyl, was first linked to deaths in the United States in June of 2020. Originally the drugs were found in midwestern states including Minnesota and Illinois, but by October they had spread to cover much of the country.
The Center for Forensic Science Research and Education (CFSRE) and NMS Labs (Horsham, Pa.) published research results on November 17, 2020, linking numerous deaths with the new drug.
Dr. Barry Logan, Chief Scientist at NMS Labs which specializes in performing testing for coroners and medical examiners' offices, noted that brorphine is the latest in a series of new drugs creating problems for emergency rooms, first responders, and labs that assist in death investigations.
"Brorphine appeared unexpectedly in June 2020, taking over the market from a previously prevalent novel opioid called isotonitazene. In its wake, we are already seeing additional new opioids entering recreational markets," said Dr. Logan.
Based in Willow Grove, Pa., the CFSRE laboratory watches for the appearance of new drugs such as brorphine in the U.S. and warns the public about their findings. This year, CFSRE has identified 17 new drugs entering the U.S. drug trade, including six new opioids.
The six new opioids are not chemically related to fentanyl, but they have similar effects according to Dr. Alex Krotulski, manager of CFSRE's NPS Discovery program.
"Brorphine and isotonitazene have been identified in at least 350 deaths in the last 14 months at our laboratories alone. And nationally their statistics are likely undercounted due to labs not testing for these substances yet or not having the ability to test for them," said Dr. Krotulski.
Dr. Krotulski hopes that the new publication about brorphine and its related deaths will help to raise awareness of the dangers of the new opioid, leading to scheduling by the DEA, increased actions to control the drug's distribution, and the reduction of fatal outcomes.