A PSNI investigation has revealed that two out of the eight recent sudden deaths in Northern Ireland are being linked to fake ecstasy tablets.
The details were revealed by Health Minister Edwin Poots following a meeting with police chiefs on Thursday.
The pills, stamped with a crown symbol, are known as ‘green Rolexes’.
Similar tablets have also been linked to the deaths of seven young people in Scotland over the past two months.
One of those who died was Alan ‘Alio’ MacKenzie from east Belfast.
Earlier this week, community groups and church leaders called on drug dealers to leave east Belfast and “take your poison with you”.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said other drugs were being examined in the investigations into the other six sudden deaths in Northern Ireland.
The eight people who died over recent weeks were all aged in their 20s and 30s.
Seven of the deaths took place in the greater Belfast area, with the highest death toll in the east of the city.
The eighth person died in Coleraine.
At the Stormont estate on Thursday, the health minister met the police and representatives from drug addiction charities, to discuss the eight deaths and the problems posed by the illegal drug trade in Northern Ireland.
Mr Poots said the police needed the public’s help to bring drug dealers to justice.
The alert over green Rolex tablets in Northern Ireland began on 28 June, when the police and health authorities issued a warning about the green pills and said they were investigating eight deaths.
At the time, the chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said those who took the tablets may have believed they were taking ecstasy.
A week later Detective Chief Supt Roy McComb, head of the PSNI’s Organised Crime Branch, described the deaths as “eight individual tragedies” and no single drug was responsible.
Some of the green pills have previously been seized in the UK, and when tested, they were found to contain the highly toxic chemicals PMA and PMMA, as well as ecstasy.
A Thursday’s meeting in Stormont’s Castle Buildings, Health Minister Edwin Poots requested an update from the police on “what is being done to prevent illegal substances being brought into Northern Ireland and the work being undertaken to tackle drug dealing”.
The minister was joined at the meeting by representatives from FASA (Forum for Alcohol and Substance Abuse), and ASCERT (Action on Substances through Community Education and Related Training).
Mr Poots said: “We need a co-ordinated and protective response to prevent tragedies like the ones we have seen in recent weeks.
“I am keen to ensure that groups like FASA and ASCERT can use their influence in the community to work closely with the PSNI in the fight against drugs.
“FASA and ASCERT are to be commended for the vital work they have undertaken at local level on this issue and I am keen to continue engagement with community groups to tackle this problem, which brings misery to so many people and their families,” Mr Poots added.