'Tranq' testing kits could soon be coming to Philadelphia

BTNX developed test strips that can pick up any amount greater than 100 nanograms of xylazine.

Christie Ileto Image
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Test kits coming soon can detect animal tranquilizer mixed with opioids
The test strips can pick up any amount greater than 100 nanograms of xylazine, also known as ‘tranq,’ that may be present in opioids bought on the street.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Testing kits for xylazine, the animal tranquilizer "tranq" that's often laced with opioids, could soon be coming to Philadelphia.

While the tests would help decipher if the drug is present, the bigger question is will those battling addiction use it.

Katrina, who didn't want to show her face, has been battling addiction on the streets of Kensington for almost two years.

She spoke to Action News with her friend Michael. Her hands bear the scars of xylazine that have been laced with opioids.

SEE ALSO: Husband and wife team care for wounds from 'tranq' use in Philadelphia's Kensington section

Right now there's nothing to decipher if "tranq" is present.

But an Ontario-based biotech company, BTNX, is working to change that.

The company developed test strips that can pick up any amount greater than 100 nanograms of "tranq."

"It's called a limited detection," said Iqbal Sunderani, the CEO of BTNX.

"So if the level of the drug concentration is greater than that, it's a positive. If it's less than that, it's a negative. And we sent some samples to Philadelphia Health," said Sunderani.

The Philadelphia Health Department confirms to Action News they will be ordering some testing kits from BTNX.

According to the city, "tranq" was detected in 34% of all overdose deaths in 2021 -- a 39% increase from 2020.

SEE ALSO: Action News Special Report: Emerging drug 'Tranq' leading to amputations

Officials say drug suppliers are lacing the fentanyl and heroin supply with the animal tranquilizer because it is cheap and easy to get.

"That would be good," said Katrina and Michael of the testing kits.

"Do you think that would be something that you would use?" asked Action News reporter Christie Ileto.

"Yes, we're trying to get off it anyway," Katrina and Michael said.

There's no approximate timetable on when these tests will arrive here in Philadelphia.

SEE ALSO: Xylazine in humans: Congress moves to make 'tranq' drug a controlled substance