Since 2019, the Drug Enforcement Administration and State Department have known that Mexican pharmacies are pushing over-the-counter pills containing fentanyl, according to a new report. The Los Angeles Times reported that the federal agencies were notified by the family of Brennan Harrell, 29, who died of an overdose in 2019 after buying pills in a drug store in Cabo San Lucas. “This case could have been a canary in the coal mine and could have prevented more deaths that have surely occurred since then,” said Chelsea Shover, a UCLA researcher investigating the sale of adulterated medicines in Mexico. Shover has led a study showing counterfeit medicines are being sold in Mexico. “We knew when we detected counterfeits that there would be people who died, but it’s deeply concerning that there was compelling evidence of this a few years ago, and yet there wasn’t any kind of public information campaign about it,” Shover said.
The LA Times reported that the DEA and State Department did not answer questions about the incident. According to Patients Beyond Borders, Americans using foreign sources save up to 70 percent on dental, cosmetic, and weight loss procedures, according to Fox News. Mary Harrell, Brennan’s mother, told the LA Times that the family arranged for toxicology tests in the U.S. after the Mexican autopsy ruled he died of a heart attack and an obstructed airway. Toxicology showed he died of a drug overdose and had a high level of fentanyl. Dr. Christopher Young, Ventura County’s chief medical examiner who did the test, said he contacted the DEA. “I remember explaining this case and emphasizing that this wasn’t one from my county, but that I just wanted them to be aware of it,” he said. “I wanted to impress upon them how unusual this was. They were concerned.” Marry Harrell and her husband, Bob, said they were interviewed by the DEA and that DEA agents eventually told them they believed their son’s death was due to a counterfeit pill he bought at a pharmacy in Cabo San Lucas. She said the DEA led her to believe action might take place. Since then, the State Department’s warning for buying medicines in Mexico received reads: “Exercise caution when purchasing medication overseas. Pharmaceuticals, both over the counter and requiring prescription in the United States, are often readily available for purchase with little controls. Counterfeit medication is common and may prove to be ineffective, the wrong strength, or contain dangerous ingredients. Medication should be purchased in consultation with a medical professional and from reputable establishments.” Maia Szalavitz, author of “Undoing Drugs: The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction,” was not impressed, the LA Times reported. “The State Department and anyone giving warnings about drugs need to be explicit. People who travel to Mexico to get cheap drugs need to know that this is a risk that is real.” An investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that 71 percent of pills it tested from Mexican pharmacies had more powerful drugs in it. In Tijuana, some pills sold as oxycodone included fentanyl, and Adderall pills contained methamphetamine. Hydrocodone pills in other cities tested positive for fentanyl. “Whenever you have counterfeit products that contain fentanyl, you are going to have people use them and die,” Shover said. Cecilia Farfán-Mendez, who studies cartels as head of research at UC San Diego’s Center of U.S.-Mexican Studies, said the presence of fentanyl in other drugs “speaks to the lack of law enforcement monitoring what’s happening in the pharmacies.” This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
Officials at the U.S. DEA and State Department have known for more than three years that some pharmacies in Mexico are selling counterfeit medications laced with illicit fentanyl — and that American tourists are overdosing and dying from them.https://t.co/9UEaPUQ7Cj— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) March 14, 2023