SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles say they have evidence showing some counterfeit medications sold in south-of-the-border pharmacies contain deadly drugs such as fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin.
Between 2021 and 2022, UCLA researchers obtained 45 single pills that were sold without prescriptions at Mexican pharmacies that “cater to U.S. tourists.”
According to their research, the pills were distributed as “oxycodone”, “Xanax” and “Adderall”
“The samples we tested came from 40 different pharmacies in four cities in Mexico,” said Dr. Chelsea Shover, one of the researchers. “It’s important to know all the samples we tested were sold as individual pills.”
Shover stated about half of the pills tested came back positive for illegal substances.
“There are counterfeit opioid pills being sold as oxycodone or else but actually contain fentanyl,” she said.
Shover told Border Report they took on the study after hearing from fellow researchers south of the border about counterfeit drugs being sold at some pharmacies.
“And they started hearing this from people they were interviewing that some pharmacies were selling, what the people being interviewed understood to be counterfeit pills, we just wanted to know if this is happening at all.”
The exact locations where the pills were purchased or who bought them are not being made public by Shover and her team.
“I work in California where there’s a lot of counterfeit ‘Oxy’ and Percocet pills and so it’s not surprising that some of those would end up and sold, one by one, in various settings including pharmacies.”
Last week, the Los Angeles Times published a story detailing its own investigation using the UCLA study as a basis for their article.
It tested 17 pills purchased at pharmacies in Tijuana and the Cabo San Lucas area.
According to the article, 71 percent of the pills came back with traces of fentanyl or methamphetamine.
Shover did not talk about the L.A. Times article specifically only to say there is a message and warning that people need to hear.
“What I worry about is people who don’t know it’s happening, so with this getting the word out, they need to know that someone trying to buy a single Percocet thinking they’re going to get Percocet, they’re actually getting fentanyl.”
In Mexico, it’s illegal to sell painkillers, opioids and other medications without prescriptions even if it’s just one pill.
Shover said their study is not an indictment of the pharmacies south of the border.
None of the medications involved in both the UCLA and L.A. Times studies were purchased with a prescription or in a sealed container or package.