Some Mexican pharmacies are selling full bottles of Adderall. But it’s actually meth.

The Los Angeles Times reported that some pharmacies in Mexico are selling fake Adderall pills over the counter, in bottles that look like they come from reputable drug companies. But the pills are not what they seem. Some contain methamphetamine, while others have appetite suppressants, acetaminophen or caffeine.

This is the result of a follow-up investigation by the Times, which first exposed the problem of methamphetamine-laced Adderall in Mexican pharmacies 10 months ago.

The new investigation found that the counterfeiters have become more sophisticated, offering a variety of substances as medications for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and sometimes labeling them as Vyvanse, a similar drug. They also sell the pills in fake bottles, with fake codes, lot numbers and even holographic seals. In some cases, the same bottles were found in different stores or chains.

“It’s really bad to find out that pharmacies are selling whole bottles of fake medication, and clearly an effort has been made to make them look legitimate,” said Chelsea Shover, a UCLA researcher who published a study on counterfeit medications in Mexico earlier this year.

“There was some sense before that maybe the problem was largely confined to single pills, but clearly that’s not the case,” Shover said. “It sounds like the problem of counterfeit medications is a lot more widespread than we would have thought.”

Healthcare providers called the shift “very concerning,” and drug market experts said the sophistication of the faux bottles points to the involvement of large criminal organizations.

“This is clearly escalating, increasing the quality of the fakes,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies organized crime. “That also suggests a systematic component — like the cartels. You wouldn’t have this consistency in the packaging if you didn’t have a big actor behind it.” Drug regulators in Mexico did not respond to requests for comment, although in recent months officials have cracked down with raids and seizures in multiple cities. Pharmacies in Mexico have long been known for selling a wide range of medications over the counter, many of which, in the United States, either require a prescription or are simply not available. But the official list of substances that can be legally prescribed in Mexico does not include Adderall — which makes it a prime target for counterfeiters catering to American travelers who can no longer get their medication at home.

The Times first began investigating counterfeit medications in January, when reporters traveled to Tijuana and Los Cabos and bought loose pills over the counter from several drugstores.

They found some of the pills sold as opioid painkillers were actually fentanyl, and all of the pills sold as Adderall were actually methamphetamine. Overall, the Times investigation found that 71% of the 17 pills tested came up positive for more powerful drugs. So reporters expanded the investigation to other border towns and tourist destinations, using at-home testing strips followed by confirmatory lab tests to determine the pills’ contents.

Source: LA Times