Counterfeit pills purchased on the streets, online, or through social media websites pose a serious public health and safety hazard. These pills may contain the wrong ingredients, contain too little, too much, or no active ingredient at all, or contain other, potentially life-threatening hidden ingredients, such as fentanyl or methamphetamine.
DEA has consistently urged the public to obtain prescription drugs only from state-licensed pharmacies that are located in the United States, where the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state authorities can assure the quality of drug manufacturing, packaging, distribution, and labeling. “Counterfeit pills are extremely dangerous, as they often contain toxic or illicit ingredients such as fentanyl, increasing the likelihood of an overdose.
Many popular prescription drugs are being counterfeited and distributed to consumers through online pharmacies, mail-order services, and cross-border purchasing. These look-alike medications pose significant health risks, as key ingredients may be absent, diluted, or poisonous.
According to reports, thousands of Americans cross the border every year in order to save a great deal of money buying prescription drugs. This is a major industry, and sales to foreigners account for a significant part of the more than 11 billion U.S. dollars worth of pharmaceutical products sold last year.
From Mexican diet pills to Mexican Xanax, from Mexican abortion pills to Mexican Viagra the demand for Mexican pills is surging. Despite these numbers, however, too many Americans have little or no information about purchasing genuine prescription drugs in Mexico.
Mexico and fake drugs
According to a report by the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, Mexico’s most dangerous drug cartel has found another way to enrich its pockets by producing fake prescription drugs and forcing pharmacies to sell them to unsuspecting people.
Recently, the Drug Enforcement Administration alerted the public of dangerous counterfeit pills killing Americans. Mexican drug cartels are also manufacturing mass quantities of counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid that is lethal in minute doses, for distribution throughout North America.
Based on a sampling of tablets seized nationwide between January and March 2019, DEA found that 27 percent contained potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.
These cartels are capitalizing on the high cost of medicines in the US as well as the opioid epidemic and prescription drug abuse to unleash mayhem. Drug trafficking organizations are now sending counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in bulk to the United States for distribution.
To avoid purchasing counterfeit Mexican medications, follow these tips.
- Use caution when shopping online for medicines. Approved online pharmacies should display the “VIPPS” seal, shown here. The seal should link you to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Web site (http://www.nabp.net), where you can view information about the pharmacy or search for other approved pharmacies. Sites without the VIPPS seal may be selling counterfeit products.
- Avoid purchasing drugs outside the U.S. border. Because of safety concerns, federal agencies prohibit individuals from importing prescription drugs into the United States in most cases. In Mexico, for example, counterfeit drugs account for 25 percent of medications, according to the U.S. Department of State.
- Pay attention to pill appearance and packaging. If you notice any changes in pill size, shape, texture, color, or taste from a previous prescription, discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist. In addition, examine the medication packaging. Hazy lettering, flat printing (rather than raised printing), and missing expiration dates or lot numbers are clues that a medication may be counterfeit.
- Report suspicious medications. If you think you have received a counterfeit medication, don’t use it. Return the drug to the pharmacy that gave it to you, or contact your physician or the manufacturer.