Fake medicine in Mexican pharmacies
Americans searching for cheaper prescription drugs are often deceived by some less than reputable pharmacies in Mexico. This isn't a new phenomenon. It's been going on for more than twenty years.
Since 2022, researchers and regulators have reported fake blood thinners, and counterfeit Adderall and painkillers made with illicit drugs in Mexican pharmacies that cater to American patients.
The State Department issued a health alert about counterfeit pharmaceuticals at pharmacies in Mexico, including medicines that contain fentanyl and methamphetamine, in March 2023.
PSM news about fake meds marketed to U.S. travelers
Americans searching for cheaper prescription drugs continue to be deceived by some less than reputable pharmacies in Mexico.
PSM member the Pharmaceutical Security Institute is warning Americans that counterfeit Xarelto and Eliquis are being sold in Mexican pharmacies to Americans. Both of these drugs are blood thinners and the fakes found had no active ingredients. A blood thinner without blood thinner medicine is a death sentence.
These medicines were made to target Americans. How do we know this? The packaging and the bottles for these fakes are in English. Medicines made for the Mexican drug market should have labels in Spanish. There’s no way a Mexican pharmacy can get American medicines for cheaper than U.S. purchasers can. It’s simply fake.
Mexican criminals selling desperate Americans fake medicine has been going on for over twenty years. In fact one of PSM’s founders, Marv Shepherd, used to cross over into Mexico to buy and test these fake medicines, until the counterfeiters threatened his life.
Continuing in this tradition, University of Arizona Yuma pharmacy students tested 18 samples from pharmacies in Los Algodones. The team found that 12 were substandard and the others contained zero active pharmaceutical ingredients.
These fakes are being found in multiple places in Mexico, wherever tourists go.
We know why Americans want to buy cheap medicine in Mexico, but it’s not safe, and if you end up with a major medical event you will lose a lot of money and maybe your life. Go have fun in Mexico, but talk to your pharmacists and use the resources on our web page here to save money safely. Between the medicine assistance tool and nonprofits like NeedyMeds and RXOutreach, there’s help for you.
A pill press seizure in Mexico, on the Arizona border
Where do you think those fake blood thinners in the Mexican border pharmacies come from? In February fake versions of the blood thinners XARELTO and Eliquis with no active ingredient were found in Mexican pharmacies designed for sale to American tourists.
These border pharmacies exist to draw Americans looking for cheap medicine, with no regard for their health or safety. Because honestly, what recourse do you have as an American if that border pharmacy sells you fake medicines? If you’re wondering Where these pills come from, we may have an answer.
Mexican authorities just busted a pill-making operation within blocks of these pharmacies catering to American tourists. Authorities seized 11 pounds of fentanyl pills, along with 110 pounds of white powder pounds of blue powder, and an industrial pill press.
Operations like this work because these pill pressing machines use interchangeable pill molds to make them.
This is a mold for a Oxycodone that you can buy online. It’s one of the most popular fake pills pressed today. If they wanted to make Adderall instead, they would just swap in this mold for Adderall pills, marked AD30. Or maybe you want to make fake versions of the blood thinner Eliquis...well there’s a mold for that for sale too.
Pill die to make pills marked as Eliquis.
Illegal pill pressing is a global problem but also one here too. PSM has tracked the seizure of pill presses in the US to 37 states. You can read about it in our report on the pill press problem available for free on our website.
In the meantime, it’s critical that you not take any medicine of any kind that you didn’t get from a licensed U.S. bricks and mortar pharmacy. No Canadian web pharmacies, no “cheap meds from India,” no meds from your buddy who has “a reliable guy.”
For more info about how to save money on medications while staying safe, and the risk of fake pills with fentanyl, see our website.
The L.A. Times went to Mexican pharmacies that Americans go to and found that they were selling fake opioids and with fentanyl and fake Adderall made with methamphetamine. Now they and Vice news have ventured further into Mexico and found that no matter where you go you're likely to get fake medication.
The two they're testing for are fake opioids and fake Adderall made with fentanyl and methamphetamine, but we've seen fake versions of cancer medications, blood thinners, and other important therapeutic drugs.
They even found that some of the fake opioids had xylazine in them—a drug that's been declared a new emerging threat by the White House.
If you or a loved one are going to Mexico on vacation this summer please make sure that you avoid Mexican pharmacies, especially if you're thinking of buying controlled substances. And if you get therapeutic medication please take enough of your own with you, so you don't have to take that risk while you're there.
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Want to help?
NeedyMeds: start here If you need help paying for medicine
RxOutreach: a non-profit pharmacy those with incomes at or below 400% of the federal poverty level
Medicine Assistance Tool: helps uninsured and financially struggling patients access healthcare and prescription assistance programs.
Learn safe ways to save money on our Patient Resources Page.
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