Father warns of fake prescription pill danger after losing daughter to overdose

Frank Hernandez said his daughter, Melissa, died after accidentally taking fentanyl in September.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – A Broward County father wants to warn other parents about the dangers of fake prescription pills after his daughter died from an accidental drug overdose.

Frank Hernandez said his daughter, Melissa, died after accidentally taking fentanyl in September. He believes she thought she was taking Xanax, a commonly-prescribed drug.

“She was a very good student. She really liked drawing and art. She was really popular in high school,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said Melissa was prescribed Xanax after suffering anxiety and depression, but was taken off the drug after dealing with some other addiction issues. He said rehab helped her immensely.

“She was getting her life on track since she broke up with her boyfriend,” Hernandez recalled. “And then, I guess that night, she felt some anxiety and she called this guy who gave her a fake pill that killed her. To me, she was poisoned, you know?”

Medical examiners records show Melissa had what looked like Xanax in her backpack, but died from an accidental overdose. Toxicology records show high concentrations of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in her system.

The Hollywood Police Department said detectives are actively working the death investigation.

The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning about the dangers of fake pills, and launched a campaign to help families called One Pill Can Kill.

“This is dangerous,” said Deanne Reuter, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Miami Field Division.

In 2021, agents across the U.S. seized 20,000,000 fake pills that are often laced with fentanyl. They look like real prescriptions.

“Many of them are pressed to look exactly like legitimate prescriptions. Xanax, Adderall, oxycodone. Those are the big ones,” Reuter said.

Four out of ten fake prescriptions seized agents contain a lethal dose, according to the DEA.

“The potency of these fake pills are made in such a way that people are getting addicted to them and seeking them out. It’s very lucrative for these drug traffickers to sell,” Reuter added.

In the most recent report from the Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission, Broward County led the state in the number of fentanyl deaths.

“We know that people are struggling with drug addiction,” Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony wrote in a news release. “We want to see them get the help they need and not die from a lethal dose of fentanyl concealed in an illegal counterfeit pill.”

Hernandez said he wanted to share his daughter’s story to help others.

For more information about warning signs of fentanyl addiction, common emoji’s used as codes for drugs, and how to talk to your family, click here.

About the Author:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.