US travelers warned of deadly fentanyl pills being sold in Mexican pharmacies

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (AP) — Congressional lawmakers are urging the State Department to issue a travel advisory for Americans heading to Mexico due to the presence of deadly fentanyl and methamphetamine in medications sold at some Mexican pharmacies.

The call for action comes after a recent study led by researchers at UCLA examined medications purchased legally in four cities in northern Mexico. These cities are places U.S. travelers often seek low-cost health care and pharmaceuticals. The study revealed that 40% of the pills sold as oxycodone in these cities contained fentanyl or heroin. Other medications, such as those sold as Adderall, were laced with methamphetamines.

A separate Los Angeles Times investigation found that 71% of the pills their investigators purchased from Mexican pharmacies were laced with fentanyl and methamphetamine.

U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken urging the department to immediately warn Americans traveling to Mexico of the danger they face when purchasing pills from Mexican pharmacies.

“These adulterated drugs place unsuspecting U.S. tourist customers — some of whom are seeking to avoid high pharmaceutical drug pricing in the United States — at risk of overdose and death,” the letter said. “In Mexico, where pharmaceutical drug pricing is lower than the United States, Mexican pharmacies have a long history of selling prescription drugs at substantially lower prices than their U.S. counterparts. This differential has incentivized many Americans to travel to Mexico to obtain certain medication at more affordable prices.”

Researchers also noted that medical tourism has become more prevalent because of rising healthcare costs in the U.S. They also believe Americans travel to Mexican pharmacies because it’s easier to obtain opioids. However, researchers warn that you can’t tell the difference between a counterfeit and authentic medication by appearance alone.

“Many areas of Mexico — including resort towns — are lined with pharmacies that cater to tourists,” wrote Markey and Trone in their letter.

Researchers say that because of Mexico’s limited opioid overdose surveillance, we don’t know the current death rate from these substances. Emily’s Hope CEO Angela Kennecke talked about the meth and fentanyl pouring into our nation from Mexico in a recent Grieving Out Loud podcast episode.