Midwest health departments warn of new deadly animal tranquilizer’s emergence

June 7, 2024

Health departments in the Midwest are warning of the emergence of a new deadly animal tranquilizer that’s linked to overdose deaths.

The drug, medetomidine, is a powerful sedative used in veterinary medicine to keep dogs sedated and comfortable during exams and medical procedures, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said when it approved the drug in 2022.

The Detroit Free Press reported that the drug is most often cut into fentanyl, which is then cut into what passes as heroin. This drug, however, can’t be reversed by naloxone, or Narcan, which has been used to reverse overdoses for other drugs.

The medicine causes a decrease in an animal’s heart rate, which increases the chance of developing an irregular heartbeat, the FDA said.

According to The Detroit News, three overdose deaths in Michigan have happened since March and have been linked to the drug in toxicology scans. Other drugs like fentanyl have been found in the scans as well.

Medetomidine is more potent and “we want to make sure Michigan residents are aware of this new and dangerous drug showing up in overdose deaths in our state,” Dr. Natasha Bagdararian, the chief medical executive for the state of Michigan, said in a statement.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services urged local organizations and health care providers to raise awareness and distribute drug test strips.

The Indiana Department of Health is also warning about the drug, noting that it’s also been mixed with heroin.

According to Wane 15, no toxicology reports or the Indiana Prescription Drug Monitoring Program have detected the drug as of May 2024.

The outlet reported that it’s been linked to an outbreak of overdoses and other adverse effects in Philadelphia, Pittsburg and Chicago, the Indiana Department of Health said.

Wane 15 is an affiliate station owned by Nexstar Media Group, which also owns The Hill.