‘Purple heroin,’ new opioid drug may pose danger in Michigan

October 18, 2020 GMT

DETROIT (AP) — A new drug dubbed “purple heroin” has been linked to overdoses in the Upper Peninsula and the death of one person in southwestern Michigan, public health officials warned.

Purple heroin’s name comes from its typically purple hue, the Detroit Free Press reported. It consists of synthetic opioid fentanyl, acetaminophen, which is used to treat pain and fevers and a new drug called brorphine, among other substances.

“We want to try to get ahead of it to make sure … it’s not making its way down the state,” said Varun Vohra, a director of the Michigan Poison Center at Wayne State University, which issued an alert recently.


He added that brorphine is still fairly unknown.

“It was a surprise to us as well,” Vohra said.

Brorphine was first cited in a scientific report in 2018, according to information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. And the Michigan State Police discovered the drug in May, the state Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement

Brorphine is a strong synthetic opioid, but it is not a duplicate of fentanyl, Vohra said, adding that it is not authorized for any medical uses nor easily discernable in normal hospital blood tests.

The name, “purple heroin,” may be a misused designation. Vohra said no heroin was found in samples seized and tested by the Michigan State Police.

The overdose death in Van Buren County is the first in Michigan with a connection to brorphine. The unnamed person had also consumed fentanyl, according to the state’s Health and Human Services department.

Excluding Michigan, brorphine is linked to at least seven deaths in the U.S. — one in Arizona, three in Minnesota and three in Minneapolis. It is believed to be responsible for three, possibly four, overdoses in Michigan.

Only Van Buren Township has reported a confirmed overdose in the Lower Peninsula. Lt. Casey Davis, who runs the Van Buren County Sheriff Department’s narcotics task force, said he has not seen a deluge of “purple heroin” or brorphine.

Vohra said anyone who needs information on the drug or finds it should call the Michigan Poison Control Center, which is not connected to law enforcement.