Some Mexican Pharmacies Selling Counterfeit Pills Laced With Fentanyl, Heroin and Meth: UCLA Study

The UCLA team visited 40 pharmacies throughout four northern Mexico cities

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Finding a pharmacy in Mexico isn’t a difficult task. In most cities, including Tijuana, you’ll find one on every block. 

They have colorful advertisements, play loud music and display multiple signs offering discounts. But what you’ll find inside might not be as alluring.

A recent University of California, Los Angeles study found that pills sold in some Mexican pharmacies such as Adderall tested positive for methamphetamine, while pills sold as oxycodone tested positive for heroin and fentanyl.

“That's kind of scary,” said John Fitznurice, a San Diego resident. “I didn't know that was happening, but I did know fentanyl has been a huge problem across the board from everyone.”

The UCLA team visited 40 pharmacies throughout four northern Mexico cities. Sixty-eight percent of the pharmacies sold them the medication without a prescription, and 43% sold the medication as single pills.  

They managed to buy 45 single pills in total, nearly half were counterfeit. Out of 11 Adderall pills, nine contained meth. And out of the 26 oxycodone pills purchased,  eight had fentanyl, and three contained heroin.

“That's the sense that's worrisome, that there is this sense that if you are buying it from a pharmacy you think it's going to be what it’s advertised,” said Chelsea Shover, assistant professor at the UCLA School of Medicine.

Shover is the lead researcher of the study.

“We don't know how long it has been going on, we don't know how common it is we just know that it is happening,” said Shover.

We reached out to the Baja California state government for comment. They told NBC 7 that up until now the federal commission for protection against health risks or “COEFRIS” in Spanish, has not received any complaints from their citizens indicating the sale of counterfeit pills in local pharmacies. They added they will continue to investigate.  

Meanwhile, those traveling down south for medication say they will be on high alert.

“They think they’re getting something that's safe, that's dosed properly and all that stuff, that's really scary,” said Fitznurice.

The UCLA team says their study is only preliminary and has not been peer-reviewed, but due to the concerning results, they felt it was important they released the data. 

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