TIJUANA (Border Report) — An investigation conducted by the Los Angeles Times found that pharmacies south of the border are selling — possibly unknowingly — prescription medications laced with fentanyl or methamphetamine.
The investigation, published last week under the headline, “Some pharmacies in Mexico passing off fentanyl, meth as legitimate pharmaceuticals,” found some pharmacies in Tijuana, Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, are selling counterfeit prescription pills laced “with stronger and deadlier drugs and passing them off as legitimate pharmaceuticals.”
Times personnel purchased oxycodone, hydrocodone and other medications, and most of the came back positive for either fentanyl and methamphetamine.
According to the article, 71 percent of 17 pills tested positive for meth or fentanyl.
The Times also cited a similar study conducted by a team led by UCLA researchers that found similar results.
Pharmacies and others in Tijuana have been quick to denounce the Times story.
Dr. Raul Palacios, who runs a drug counseling facility for juveniles, said he finds it hard to believe medications are being laced with potentially deadly drugs and sold to unsuspecting customers.
“Would they contain fentanyl, highly unlikely,” Palacios said as he shook his head. “It could be with a simple test, legal amphetamines test positive for methamphetamine because they contain the same active ingredient, but more tests would have to be done to confirm it.”
Julian Palombo, head of Tijuana’s chamber of commerce, also questioned the Time article.
“There is a lot of oversight by the government making it almost impossible to taint legal medications with illegal drugs,” said Palombo. “This is only generating a bad image for the city of Tijuana, especially in the eyes of families who visit or might visit in the future.”
Palombo said the pharmacy industry is also looking bad.
“This is worrisome that they could claim it’s happening,” he stated. “We would like this foreign medium that published the story to help us learn more and give us the names of the actual pharmacies reportedly selling the fentanyl and meth-laced products to see if any are committing any crimes.”
The Times also found that pharmacists might not know they are selling fentanyl-laced pills. Cecilia Farfán-Mendez, who studies cartels as head of research at UC San Diego’s Center of U.S.-Mexican Studies, told the newspaper that pharmacy owners are most likely not buying directly from the criminal organizations and that there are typically networks of middlemen.
Border Report reached out to the Times about its article, but was told its communications team would respond later about doubts cast by people in Tijuana and about the methodology used to test the pills staff members purchased for the story.