The US Department of State has issued a travel warning about dangerous counterfeit pills sold in pharmacies in Mexico that often contain fentanyl.
The travel advisory posted Friday says Americans should “be careful when buying medicines in Mexico.”
Small pharmacies in tourist areas and border regions sometimes sell advertised drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, and others without a prescription.
The State Department warned that such pills are often counterfeit and “may contain deadly doses of fentanyl.”
“Counterfeit pills are easily advertised on social media and can be purchased at small, non-chain pharmacies in Mexico along the border and in tourist areas,” he said.
A study led by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found that 68% of 40 Mexican pharmacies visited in four cities in northern Mexico sold oxycodone, Xanax or Adderall, and that 27% of those pharmacies sold fake pills.
UCLA said the study, published in January, found that “traditional pharmacies in tourist cities in northern Mexico are selling counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine.
These pills are sold primarily to American tourists and often pose as controlled substances such as Oxycodone, Percocet, and Adderall.”
“These counterfeit pills pose a serious overdose risk to purchasers who believe they are getting a known amount of a weaker drug,” said Chelsea Shover, resident assistant professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the problem exists in beach resorts like Playa del Carmen and Tulum, not just in border cities.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment on whether any Americans overdosed or died from drug sales in Mexico.
A State Department spokesperson wrote in response to the request that “The US State Department has no higher priority than the safety of US citizens abroad. We take seriously our commitment to provide American citizens with clear, timely, and reliable information about every country in the world so they can make informed travel decisions.”