U.S. points warning about Mexican pharmacies promoting tainted, counterfeit drugs
The U.S. State Division issued a warning Friday for Individuals to “train warning” when shopping for drugs from drug shops in Mexico, posting the well being alert every week after a letter from two lawmakers and an investigation by the Los Angeles Occasions.
“The U.S. Division of State is conscious of latest media stories relating to counterfeit prescribed drugs accessible at pharmacies in Mexico, together with these tainted with fentanyl and methamphetamine,” the alert stated. “Counterfeit drugs are readily marketed on social media and will be bought at small, non-chain pharmacies in Mexico alongside the border and in vacationer areas.”
The brand new discover is stronger than prior language on the division’s web site, which warned that counterfeit drugs have been frequent within the nation. It didn’t specify that they may very well be bought at reliable pharmacies or that they could include such potent and lethal substances.
“The State Division warning is an efficient and vital step,” stated Chelsea Shover, a UCLA researcher whose workforce documented the issue this 12 months. “However there’s nonetheless lots we don’t know concerning the scope of this situation, and I feel discovering that shall be vital to issuing extra exact warnings and taking motion.”
The division didn’t reply a listing of questions concerning the advisory, as an alternative sending a press release.
On Friday, “the U.S. Embassy in Mexico Metropolis issued a Well being Alert informing U.S. residents of the hazard of counterfeit prescribed drugs accessible at pharmacies in Mexico, together with these doubtlessly tainted with fentanyl and methamphetamine,” the assertion stated.
Mexican businesses and officers didn’t reply to requests for remark. In latest weeks, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has denied that his nation is concerned within the fentanyl commerce, regardless of ample proof.
The State Division’s warning comes one week after Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) despatched a letter asking the division to instantly “warn Individuals touring to Mexico of the hazard they face when buying drugs from Mexican pharmacies.”
The letter cited The Occasions’ investigation and the UCLA researchers’ findings, each of which documented harmful counterfeit drugs being bought over-the-counter at drug shops in northwestern Mexico.
“U.S. vacationers who unwittingly buy counterfeit drugs from Mexican pharmacies — each with and with out a prescription, in line with the Los Angeles Occasions — face lethal dangers from drugs which have successfully been poisoned,” the lawmakers wrote.
Of the 17 drugs Occasions reporters examined this 12 months, 71% got here up constructive for extra highly effective medicine. In three cities, tablets bought as oxycodone or Percocet examined constructive for fentanyl; in two cities, tablets bought as Adderall examined constructive for methamphetamine.
Many drugs have been practically indistinguishable from their reliable counterparts, and all have been bought over-the-counter from small, impartial pharmacies in northwestern Mexico.
The UCLA workforce discovered comparable outcomes when it examined 45 samples from 4 cities in the identical area. Utilizing infrared spectrometry, the researchers discovered heroin in three drugs they bought.
Although it was recognized that counterfeit drugs had develop into more and more frequent on black markets in Mexico and the U.S., it was not recognized that the highly effective artificial medicine had made their method into pharmacy provide chains. Drug market consultants predicted that the contaminants would have deadly penalties.
“Every time you’ve counterfeit merchandise that include fentanyl, you’ll have folks use them and die,” Shover stated on the time.
5 weeks later, The Occasions printed an investigation detailing the ultimate hours within the lifetime of Brennan Harrell, a 29-year-old California man who died in 2019 after consuming fentanyl-tainted drugs bought at a pharmacy in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
His mother and father stated they cooperated with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which conducts and assists with trafficking investigations within the U.S. and in Mexico. Brokers appeared into the matter, the Harrells stated, however didn’t alert the general public concerning the potential threat.
A DEA spokesperson declined to touch upon the State Division‘s alert Friday, referring to an earlier DEA e mail.
“We don’t regulate Mexican pharmacies, which is why now we have really helpful you attain out to authorities in Mexico,” the e-mail stated. “U.S. Division of State points the journey warnings/assets for Individuals touring in another country, so we refer you to them on info supplied to Americans visiting Mexico.”
Harrell’s mother and father fought greater than three years for the State Division to situation a prominently positioned warning concerning the risks of Mexican pharmacies.
“This warning ought to have come nearly in 2019, after I alerted the State Division,” Brennan’s mom, Mary, instructed The Occasions on Saturday.
Another deaths, she stated, “are on their palms, and what number of deaths we won’t know.”
Partially, that’s as a result of Mexican autopsies don’t persistently embrace assessments for fentanyl. Moreover, drug consultants say the nation’s mortality information vastly beneath depend overdose deaths.
Whereas greater than 91,000 folks died of overdoses within the U.S. in 2020, Mexico noticed fewer than two dozen fatalities from opioids that 12 months, in line with the nation’s official information. That very same 12 months, the U.S. recorded greater than 68,000 opioid overdose deaths.
The State Division points journey advisories for each nation, ranking the extent of warning U.S. vacationers ought to take. The bottom-level advisory — color-coded blue — suggests folks ought to “train regular precautions” whereas overseas; the highest-level advisory, coded pink, warns that Individuals “shouldn’t journey” there on account of life-threatening dangers.
For particular — and infrequently shorter-term — security considerations overseas, the division places out alerts about issues akin to demonstrations, crime developments and climate occasions.
On Monday, the State Division issued a broad “journey alert” for spring break that warned vacationers about considerations in Mexico, together with crime, drownings, medical emergencies and prescribed drugs.
“Counterfeit medicine is frequent and will show to be ineffective, the incorrect power, or include harmful substances,” the alert stated. “Treatment ought to be bought in session with a medical skilled and from respected institutions.”
That alert was largely a repetition of steerage on the positioning and didn’t embrace warnings that the lawmakers requested relating to counterfeit drugs bought in drug shops.
On Friday, the State Division printed the extra detailed warning, “Well being Alert: Counterfeit Prescription drugs,” providing extra specifics concerning the considerations raised in latest reporting. Nonetheless, the division didn’t reply a query about how lengthy its alert would stay in place.
“Prescription drugs, each over-the-counter and requiring prescription in america,” the alert stated, “are sometimes available for buy with little regulation.”