Buyer Beware: Mexican Pharmacies Found to Sell Single Pills of Controlled Substances Laced With Fentanyl

Written by Lucia Mueller | Posted febrero 16, 2023

Pharmacies across the border that cater to U.S. tourists have been found to be selling single pills without a prescription requirement, a majority of which are laced with illicit drugs. A University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study shows that single pills of controlled substances – Percocet (oxycodone), Xanax, and Adderall – sold at pharmacies in Mexico that don’t require prescriptions were found to be laced with fentanyl, methamphetamine, or heroin. Fentanyl is of particular concern: It’s up to 50 times stronger than heroin and ingesting as little as 2mg can be fatal. Per the CDC website, “It is nearly impossible to tell if drugs have been laced with fentanyl unless you test your drugs with fentanyl test strips.” 

“Big Pharma has been chock full of fake facts about counterfeit drugs, scaring people away from the import of lower-cost meds, but counterfeit medications laced with fentanyl is a real problem that we must together address,” said Gabriel Levitt, president of PharmacyChecker. 

Of the 45 pills analyzed in the UCLA study, 20 were counterfeit:

  • Nine Adderall pills contained methamphetamine
  • Eight Oxycodone pills contained fentanyl
  • Three Oxycodone pills contained heroin

The Los Angeles Times conducted its own investigation in which it tested 17 pills purchased at pharmacies in Tijuana and the Cabo San Lucas area. 

  • 71% of the pills came back with traces of fentanyl or methamphetamine

Mirroring the UCLA study results, LA Times reporters found that pills sold as Percocet contained traces of fentanyl, and pills sold as Adderall tested positive for methamphetamine. Unlike UCLA, they also tested hydrocodone pills, which tested positive for fentanyl. 

It’s common knowledge that many Americans hop in the car to take advantage of the lower prescription prices to the South (and North) of the border. The good news is that we’re not talking about the likelihood of getting your blood pressure pills laced with fentanyl. There’s no reporting on or evidence of that. We’re talking about controlled substances sold as a single pill – in the case of the LA Times investigation, for $15 to $35 per pill. They found that several stores in Mexico “declined to sell the pills individually, and two refused to sell them without a prescription.” 

In fact, the UCLA study showed that around a third of the pharmacies would not sell controlled prescription drugs over the counter. None of the medications in either study were purchased with a prescription or in a sealed container or package, underlining that if you pursue painkillers without obtaining a valid prescription and/or in a single-pill form, you are asking for trouble. It’s not worth it: More than 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. If you’re ingesting these pills unknowingly, you’re at an even higher risk of overdose. 

The PharmacyChecker Verification Program, throughout its decades of work in vetting international pharmacies, has maintained stringent rules against marketing prescription drugs without a prescription requirement. Online pharmacies accredited by PharmacyChecker sell lawfully-manufactured medication from licensed dispensing pharmacies in the jurisdictions in which they practice. At this time, no pharmacy operating in Mexico has applied to the PharmacyChecker Verification Program that meets the high standards of pharmacy practice required by PharmacyChecker.

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