Authorities are investigating another overdose case in middle Georgia related to fake Percocet pills. (Credit: channel 2 Action News)

Overdose death toll mounts in Middle Georgia 

A 34-year-old Macon man is the fifth person in Middle Georgia to die of an apparent overdose after taking a potent synthetic opioid being sold on the street and marketed as Percocet, according to the Macon-Bibb County coroner.

Chief coroner Leno Jones said Monday that Robert Ketchup died in the intensive care unit of Coliseum Medical Centers Sunday where he had been since he was found unconscious at his mother’s home on Thursday.

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An autopsy will be performed Tuesday to confirm if his death could be blamed on the yellow oval pills law enforcement suspect killed four others and sent another 33, including Ketchup, to Middle Georgia hospitals in just a few days.

Jones said Ketchup “had a bunch of pills on him” and they had been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab for analysis.

A cluster of overdoses -- in Bibb, Houston, Monroe and Dougherty Counties -- was recognized a week ago. The majority of them have been in Bibb County.

Jones said there had been 12 or 13 just in Bibb.

“I’ve been (in the) coroner’s office 26 years and EMS 32. I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude in Bibb County. Never,” Jones said. “It’s about as close to an epidemic as you can get. We’ve never seen anything like this.”

State officials issued a public health alert last Monday when four people died and 24 were hospitalized after being found unconscious. Officials predicted there would be more possible overdoes and in just a few days the number of hospitalized increased twice after that first wave.

A preliminary analysis of some pills from Bibb County found they contained two synthetic opioids, including a version of fentanyl. Further testing is being done.

The pill linked to the middle Georgia cluster is unlike any law enforcement has seen.  

A rising tide of opioid addiction has been feeding an escalating public health crisis nationally and in Georgia. As dealers have become more sophisticated, officials are also seeing synthetic opioids, with varying chemical compositions.

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