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US warns of counterfeit pills sold in Mexico that may contain deadly doses of fentanyl

Some pharmaceuticals sold in Mexico without a prescription might be counterfeit and contain deadly doses of fentanyl, U.S. officials warn.

The U.S. Department of State issued a health alert Friday asking U.S. citizens to “exercise caution when purchasing medication in Mexico.”

Pharmaceuticals — both ones sold over-the-counter and those requiring a prescription in the U.S. — are “often readily available for purchase with little regulation in Mexico,” officials said.

Counterfeit medication may not only prove to be ineffective but can 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’s aware of recent reports of the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, which are readily 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 at the University of California, Los Angeles visited 40 pharmacies in four cities in Northern Mexico and found 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 present “a serious overdose risk to buyers who think they are getting a known quantity of a weaker drug,” said senior author Chelsea Shover, assistant professor-in-residence of medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.

An investigation by the Los Angeles Times published on Feb. 2 found a similar result. After testing 17 pills bought in several pharmacies in northwestern Mexico, 71% of them tested positive for an illegal substance.

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