Some pharmaceuticals sold in Mexico without a prescription may be counterfeit and contain lethal doses of fentanyl, US officials warn.
The United States Department of State issued a health alert on Friday calling on US citizens to “be careful when buying medicines in Mexico.”
Pharmaceutical products, both over-the-counter and prescription-only in the US, “are often available for purchase with little regulation in Mexico,” officials said.
Counterfeit drugs may not only be ineffective, but may also be laced with “dangerous ingredients” such as fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Such pills, which can be found on both sides of the border, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, are sold as OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, Adderall and others.
The State Department said it is aware of recent reports of the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, which are easily advertised on social media and “can be purchased at small, non-chain pharmacies in Mexico along the border and in tourist areas.
Early last month, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles visited 40 pharmacies in four cities in northern Mexico and discovered that 68% of them sold at least one controlled substance without a prescription.
Counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, heroin, and/or methamphetamine were sold at 11 of these pharmacies.
These pills pose “a serious overdose risk for purchasers who believe they are getting a known amount of a weaker drug,” said lead author Chelsea Shover, a resident assistant professor of medicine at the David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine.
A Los Angeles Times investigation published on February 2 found a similar result. After trying 17 pills purchased at various pharmacies in northwestern Mexico, 71% of them tested positive for an illegal substance.