The LA Times says fentanyl-tainted pills can be found in Mexican pharmacies nationwide


Some of the pills looked just like antibiotics. Others were unlabeled white tablets. Several mimicked well-known American pills, and a few came in sealed bottles.

They were all purchased in Mexico, at legitimate pharmacies from Tulum, at the country’s southeast tip, to Tijuana, at the northwest border with California.

And at least half of them were fakes.

Earlier this year, The LA Times found that pharmacies in several northwestern Mexico cities were selling counterfeit pills over the counter, passing off powerful methamphetamine as Adderall and deadly fentanyl as Percocet and other opioid painkillers. But four more months of investigation showed the problem is much broader than previously understood.

Individual packages of medication line store shelves.
Medications are lined up on wide shelves in a pharmacy in Puerto Vallarta. (Connor Sheets / Los Angeles Times)

It’s not just stray single pills that are laced with dangerous substances, but sometimes entire bottles that appear to be factory sealed. And the issue isn’t restricted to one area: It’s happening in tourist hot spots across the country, from the California border to the Yucatán Peninsula and from the southernmost edge of Texas to the Pacific Coast.

During five trips to Mexico, Times reporters purchased and tested 55 pills from 29 pharmacies in eight cities. A little more than 50% — 28 pills — were counterfeit.

More than a third of the opioid painkillers tested — 15 out of 40 — were counterfeit, the vast majority positive for fentanyl. One tested positive for a weaker medication and another tested positive for no drugs at all. Meanwhile, 12 of 15 Adderall samples tested positive for other substances, including methamphetamine and, in one case, MDMA, the designer drug commonly known as ecstasy.

Some of the pills came from drugstores in seaside destinations including Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Tulum, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta. Others were purchased in Tijuana and Nuevo Progreso, border towns with booming medical and pharmaceutical tourism sectors.

A colorful beachside sign spells out the name Playa del Carmen.
Playa del Carmen is best known for its beaches, nightlife, and entertainment, but Times reporters found that some of its pharmacies are passing off dangerous substances, including fentanyl and methamphetamine, as legitimate medications. (Connor Sheets/Los Angeles Times)

In most of those locations, the pills that tested positive came from independent pharmacies, where workers sold them over the counter, one tablet at a time. But in Puerto Vallarta, counterfeits were available even at one regional pharmacy chain — the sort of place where people might expect more quality control. Both there and in Nuevo Progreso, pills purchased in sealed bottles tested positive for more powerful drugs, a possible sign of the sophistication of fakes made by cartels, which experts say are likely the source.

Click here to read the complete original article on The Los Angeles Times

Source: Los Angeles Times

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