New evidence shows these medications come with high fentanyl, heroin, other contamination risk
CHANDLER, ARIZ.—A recent research paper highlights the potential dangers of buying certain pharmaceuticals in Mexico and Dr. Andrea H. An, medical director at Neurology Associates Neuroscience Center, is recommending patients take extreme precautions when considering buying these medications south of the border. Recently, researchers from various branches of the University of California and Northeastern University released a paper, which has not yet undergone peer review, discussing the availability and prevalence of oxycodone, Xanax and Adderall containing fentanyls, benzodiazepines, amphetamines and methamphetamines, in Mexico. The researchers teamed up in 2018 to start exploring whether legitimate pharmacies in Mexico sell contaminated pills and tablets. Over the course of several years’ work, their findings show this is indeed the case. Here’s one of the most critical takeaways: That despite the combination of expert analysis and drug-checking technology, researchers determined “it was not possible to distinguish counterfeit medications from their authentic counterparts based on appearance,” they write in “Fentanyl, Heroin, and Methamphetamine-Based Counterfeit Pills Sold at Tourist-Oriented Pharmacies in Mexico: An Ethnographic and Drug Checking Study.” This puts everyday people seeking relief from high healthcare costs in the United States at risk. An, for her part, aims to help neurology patients understand the dangers so they can make the most informed choices when it comes to their health care. “It’s unfortunate that people even have to consider leaving the country to get the medicines they need,” An says. “But that’s the reality we live in right now so it’s most important that patients understand that, according to this on-the-ground research, it’s all too easy to end up with contaminated and even more dangerous oxycodone, Xanax and Adderall.” Making Matters Worse Adding to the problem is that the pharmacies where researchers obtained and detected the counterfeit pharmaceuticals are located in neighborhoods serving tourists. That means the pills are easily purchased from pharmacies selling to Americans and other foreigners, even though those medications ostensibly are meant to be safe. “The researchers found that products labeled ‘American’ and ‘Mexican’ both could be fake or real, and they said they could not detect a pattern that would indicate which is which,” An adds. “This creates more confusion and endangers lives. I understand the draw to save money by buying certain medications in Mexico, but I would urge patients to seek out a safer course of action when it comes to oxycodone, Xanax and Adderall. These pharmaceuticals call for the close monitoring of a doctor anyway. Using them without professional guidance, even if they aren’t contaminated, still poses high risk for misuse, addiction and overdose.” The researchers, in their findings, agreed. “The availability of fentanyl, methamphetamine, and heroin-based counterfeit medications in Northern Mexican pharmacies that are oriented towards serving tourists represents a distinct public health threat,” they wrote. “These medications have been implicated in large increases in overdose risk in the United States, especially among subpopulations of individuals that are willing to experiment with prescription pills.” Neurology Associates Neuroscience Center would like to encourage patients to seek alternatives to buying potentially addictive and contaminated pills from pharmacies in Mexico. To interview Dr. Andrea An about this issue, contact Kelly Teal at Neurology Associates Neuroscience Center. ABOUT NEUROLOGY ASSOCIATES NEUROSCIENCE CENTER Neurology Associates Neuroscience Center specializes in the conditions and disorders linked to brain and spinal abnormalities. Neurology Associates takes patient care beyond typical boundaries, incorporating a truly holistic approach that encompasses imaging, psychiatry, neuropsychology, physical therapy, naturopathic medicine, counseling, cognitive rehabilitation, and more. Neurology Associates is staffed by neurologists with different areas of focus, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, a doctor of physical therapy, naturopathic physicians, clinical psychologists, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Neurology Associates has two Arizona locations, one in Chandler and one in northeast Mesa.