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Los Cabos Tourists Warned About Counterfeit Pills From Local Pharmacies

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Reporters from the LA Times conducted a study on pills that they reportedly bought in Cabo pharmacies and drug stores in other Mexican cities like Tijuana. According to their findings, about 71% of the pills that they tested contained traces of methamphetamine and fentanyl. As stated in an LA Times article, these reporters headed south of the border to try and purchase Adderall and oxycodone.

Pharmacy In Mexico That You May Want To Think Twice About Using

Americans have been visiting Mexico for medical tourism for quite some time now. Dental treatments and plastic surgery are two of the common medical procedures that Americans look for south of the border. The reason why Mexico is a hot spot for medical tourism is that these procedures are more affordable than in the USA. There’s no question that these recent findings by the LA Times should put tourists on high alert when traveling for medical tourism purposes. It must be said, though, that the investigation by no means verifies that 71% of all pills sold in Mexico will contain harder drugs. 

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One investigation that is referenced in the article was limited to a grand total of 17 pills. This means that 12 of those pills were, in fact, found to have traces of methamphetamine and, or fentanyl. While that’s certainly an alarming number, the limited number of pills that were tested and the lack of information regarding where these pills were obtained in the first place makes it hard to read too much into these results.

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Blue Pills Being Investigated In A Lab

A Deeper Study Perhaps Sheds More Light Into The Severity Of The Problem

Reporters potentially conducted the first investigation referenced in the article due to a previous, more extensive study conducted by medRxiv. medRxiv is a site that distributes medical articles. The site is backed by Yale University. In this particular study, researchers looked at samples of “Adderall” and oxycodone purchased at 40 pharmacies in what they called “Northern Mexico.” According to those findings, about 26% of the pharmacies that were part of the study sold counterfeit pills that contained methamphetamine or fentanyl. About 40% of the counterfeit pills came from single-pill samples that were given out at these pharmacies. Also, Adderall and oxycodone could be purchased without a prescription at 68% of pharmacies, according to this study. 

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**No one should take or purchase any medications without first consulting their doctor. Just because something is legal to buy does not mean one should do so without first speaking with a medical professional**

Chelsea Shover, one of the researchers at UCLA conducting the aforementioned investigation published in medRxiv said, 

“Whenever you have counterfeit products that contain fentanyl, you are going to have people use them and die,” 

Oddly enough, according to the same article, the U.S. reports more than 91,000 people died from drug overdoses last year. With Mexico only recording 1,700 deaths due to drug overdoses. While the official number reported by Mexican authorities is low, it’s also unrealistic to think that 71% of the oxycodone sold in Mexico is coated with harder drugs. 

Drug store in Mexico that sells local brand name medicine

First off, buying those two pharmaceuticals without a prescription in Mexico is risky in more ways than one. As the study shows, the “free samples” or loose pills of these substances that can be obtained at Mexican pharmacies were essentially highly contaminated. Even buying a sealed box of pills without a prescription can get travelers in trouble when they head back north of the border. 

different types of pills in a lab

The first conclusion that can be drawn from this information is that taking loose pills and buying these drugs without a prescription is not recommended. As far as pharmacies in Los Cabos go the article mentions, 

“One “farmacia” in San José del Cabo offered mini Buddha statues, incense burners, and other tchotchkes alongside brightly lighted display cases of pill bottles neatly arranged on gleaming mirrored shelves.”

Los Cabos Souvenir Store on a quiet street.

It also mentions that some of the drugs tested were from a Tijuana pharmacy where blue pills labeled K9 or M30 were sold as Mexican oxycodone and American Oxycodone, respectively. The easy fix in this situation is to make sure to buy only brand-name medicine. The price of the pills can increase dramatically, but they are usually still less expensive than brand-name medicine in the US.     

different pills in the background with a cashier helping a tourist

Adderall Is Brand Name Not Sold In Mexico

Any purchase of medications without the advice of a doctor is never recommended. The Adderall situation is one that has a ton of teaching points that may even widen the issue. Adderall is a brand-name product that is not sold as “Adderall” in Mexico. In Mexico, you may be able to purchase Terfamex or Vyvanse — two brand-name products that contain similar active components within their formula. People may be sold this instead of Adderall. 

Local Store In The Area

In the previously mentioned study, it’s not clear which medication they purchased that they refer to as “Adderall.” This brings forth another issue, taking the same doses of these products as you would with your prescribed Adderall poses a massive risk because they are not the same product. To put it bluntly, if you’re sold a box of “Adderall” that is branded as Adderall in Mexico, there’s almost a 100% certainty that it’s fake. As far as Oxycodone goes, that can be purchased as Oxycontin in Mexican pharmacies. 

Man At A Pharmacy In Mexico

Tourists who want to access the benefits of low-priced Mexican medicine would do well to speak to certified physicians on either side of the border to make sure they can avoid issues with counterfeit pills or even pills that can’t be passed off as the same medication. Going up to the counter at a pharmacy and asking for Aderrall is a recipe for disaster. The person at the counter is almost never a doctor. Yet they typically recommend “suitable” replacements for the medicine they don’t carry. It may be a good idea to visit a local doctor in Cabo before purchasing any pills just so that they can point you toward an actual pharmacy and not a local store that sells pills.

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