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Mexico has reportedly shut down 23 pharmacies at the Caribbean coast resorts, just months after the U.S. State Department urged people to exercise caution while purchasing medication in the Latin American country.

Authorities said Tuesday that 55 drug stores in Tulum, Cancun and Playa del Carmen were targeted during a four-day inspection after a research report by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), suggested the pharmacies were selling pills to foreigners without prescriptions by passing the tablets off as Percocet, Adderall and Oxycodone, AP News reported.

Irregular sales were found at the 23 drug stores, said Mexico's Navy Department, adding the pharmacies usually sold the pills only to tourists. These pharmacies often advertised such pills, and also offered home delivery services for them.

During the raid that was conducted last week, the Navy also found outdated medications, some of them which had no record of the supplier. There were also blank or unsigned prescription forms.

This comes after the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning in March about sales of such pills--a practice that seems to be widespread in Mexico. The department had said the pills sold at pharmacies in Mexico "may contain deadly doses of fentanyl."

UCLA had warned in February that researchers had found 68% of the 40 Mexican drug stores in four cities in northern Mexico sold Xanax, Oxycodone or Adderall. The researchers also found that 27% of those pharmacies were selling fake pills.

UCLA said the researchers found that "brick and mortar pharmacies in Northern Mexican tourist towns are selling counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine," and added these were sold mostly to American tourists, by often passing them "off as controlled substances such as Oxycodone, Percocet and Adderall."

Chelsea Shover, assistant professor-in-residence of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, warned in February that these counterfeit pills represent a "serious overdose risk to buyers who think they are getting a known quantity of a weaker drug."

The Navy did not confirm about pills with fentanyl being found during the raid, but said medications found in the pharmacies were being tested to see if they contained the synthetic opioid, which was more powerful than morphine.

A 2022 data showed overdose deaths involving opioids, primarily fentanyl, rising from an estimated 70,029 in 2020 to 80,816 in the following year.

Mexican cartels are known for producing fentanyl from a precursor chemical that is smuggled in from China. Then it is often used in pills created to look like other medications.

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