Fentanyl testing could curb overdose crisis

Volunteer faculty member Tessa Rife-Pennington, PharmD, works at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and with UCSF’s Addiction Research Program. In 2019, she was part of a successful pilot project to distribute fentanyl test strips to veterans. The pilot paved the way for similar projects across the United States.

In 2021, nearly 6,000 Californians died from overdoses of the powerful man-made opioid. About one in every 25 of those deaths was a child under 19, according to data from the California Overdose Surveillance Dashboard.

Test strips allow people who use drugs to do so more safely, studies show. California has set aside $4 million to distribute the strips as part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s $1 billion plan to address the crisis.

While fentanyl is often carefully prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain, most fentanyl-involved deaths are due to illicit fentanyl that can easily be mixed with other drugs like heroin to make them stronger, allowing people who sell drugs to make more profit. A small amount is enough to cause an overdose.


Can a Simple Fentanyl Test Curb San Francisco’s Overdose Crisis?


School of Pharmacy, Department of Clinical Pharmacy

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.