Fentanyl in Mexico pharmacy capsules spurs journey advisory name

Congressional lawmakers are calling on the State Department to difficulty a journey advisory warning Americans that some Mexican pharmacies are passing off counterfeit capsules made from fentanyl and methamphetamine as reputable prescription drugs.

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

Some pharmacies in Cabo San Lucas are promoting counterfeit prescription capsules laced with illicit substances and passing them off as reputable prescription drugs.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In explaining the necessity for such a high-profile warning, the letter repeatedly cited an investigation by the Los Angeles Times in addition to a research by UCLA researchers — each of which discovered harmful counterfeit capsules being offered over-the-counter at pharmacies in northwestern Mexico.

“U.S. tourists who unwittingly purchase counterfeit pills from Mexican pharmacies — both with and without a prescription, according to the Los Angeles Times — face deadly risks from medications that have effectively been poisoned,” the letter mentioned.

A State Deptartment spokesperson mentioned in an e-mail that the company does “not comment on Congressional correspondences.” The division didn’t reply questions concerning the letter or whether or not it plans to difficulty a journey advisory.

Markey and Trone despatched their letter at some point earlier than the Times printed a brand new investigation detailing the ultimate hours within the lifetime of Brennan Harrell, a 29-year-old California man who overdosed and died in 2019 after consuming fentanyl-tainted capsules bought at a pharmacy in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Harrell’s mother and father have fought unsuccessfully for greater than three years for the State Department to difficulty a prominently positioned warning concerning the risks of Mexican pharmacies.

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The dangers of touring to Mexico for its booming “medical tourism” trade got here into sharp reduction final week after 4 Americans have been kidnapped in Matamoros, a cartel-plagued Mexican border city. Officials later mentioned the vacationers could have been victims of mistaken identification after the attackers thought their van was transporting rival gangsters.

A pill is on a piece of paper.

Testing on an Adderall tablet in Cabo San Lucas got here again constructive for a bootleg substance.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The incident sparked worldwide tensions, as Republican lawmakers within the U.S. instructed sending troops throughout the border, whereas the president of Mexico blamed the violence on America’s urge for food for unlawful medicine.

“We are very sorry for what is happening in the United States, but why don’t they attend to the problem?” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador mentioned final week. “Here we do not produce fentanyl, and we do not consume fentanyl,” he mentioned, regardless of clear proof on the contrary.

The Gulf cartel has since condemned the violence, however not till after two of the kidnapped American vacationers have been killed. One of the 2 survivors — who’ve each returned to the U.S. because the harrowing ordeal — was in Mexico for a tummy tuck, one of many practically 1 million U.S. residents who search medical procedures within the nation every year.

The excessive price of pharmaceuticals within the U.S. has pushed a profitable Mexican pharmaceutical market that has seen some pharmacies promoting harmful, pretend medicines to oblivious guests, as The Times reported final month.

“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,” Markey and Trone wrote to Blinken. Markey was a member of the U.S. Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, and Trone was its co-chair.

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“The Los Angeles Times investigation found that 71% of the pills their investigators purchased from Mexican pharmacies were contaminated with powerful drugs such as fentanyl and methamphetamine.”

Travel advisories are public warnings issued by the State Department to tell Americans touring overseas about dangers they may face whereas visiting sure international locations or places. It’s crucial that one be issued about Mexican pharmacies promoting pretend, tainted capsules “as an immediate step,” Markey and Trone wrote of their joint letter.

The front of a pharmacy in Mexico.

Some pharmacies in Cabo San Lucas are promoting counterfeit prescription capsules laced with illicit substances and passing them off as reputable prescription drugs.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“The State Department, through the travel advisories it issues, plays an important role in protecting the health and safety of Americans traveling abroad,” the letter mentioned.

Steffanie Strathdee, a distinguished professor of medication at UC San Diego and co-author of the UCLA-led research, mentioned an advisory is just not sufficient.

“My view is it’s a Band-Aid,” she mentioned. “It’s not going to solve the problem, though it may help some people be more wary — as long as that’s not the only thing that’s done.”