Sunday, June 23, 2024

23 pharmacies shut down in Quintana Roo for ‘irregular’ activities

Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) announced this week that a number of pharmacies in the state of Quintana Roo have been shut down for irregularities, including selling medicines that were expired, possibly counterfeit, or that they didn’t have authorization to sell.

Irregularities were found at 23 of the 55 pharmacies in Cancún, Playa del Carmen and Tulum visited during a four-day series of Cofepris raids dubbed “Operation Albatross” by the health protection agency and the Secretary of the Navy (Semar).

Some of the medication seized appeared to be counterfeit. (James Yarema/Unsplash)

Federal officials said in a statement Tuesday that 21 products were seized, including a variety of drugs that will be tested for counterfeiting, adulteration and the presence of harmful drugs such as fentanyl.

Cofepris noted it has “suspended the activities of 23 pharmacies and/or points of sale … where controlled medicines were sold irregularly, which represents a high risk to people’s health.”

Irregularities found at the pharmacies, according to Cofepris, included operating without a proper health license, stocking controlled drugs without proper documentation from drug suppliers, selling prescription drugs without a doctor’s signature, selling expired medications (some for more than a year) and not having customer data. 

Also cited was a lack of traceability in the management of controlled medications, through such media as sales receipts.

Cofepris HQ CDMX
Federal regulator Cofepris took measures to combat the illicit pharmacies after an investigation by the LA Times newspaper earlier this year found evidence of Mexican pharmacies selling medications improperly to foreigners. (Wikimedia)

The statement said “an operation of unprecedented dimensions” was undertaken “in response to various citizen complaints” in a part of Mexico “that receives millions of national and foreign tourists every year.”

None of the suspended pharmacies are connected to any major national chains. 

The statement provided a list of the pharmacies that received total suspensions or partial suspensions or that had products seized: 

  • Drugstore Pharmacy
  • Farmacia Tulum Centro III
  • Farmacia Tulum Coba 
  • Farmacia Tulum Europea in Tulum
  • Cancún Cristal Pharmacy
  • Cancún Tortugas Pharmacy
  • Cancún Forum Pharmacy
  • Cancún Coba Pharmacy
  • Simas Pharmacy 
  • Drugstore Pharmacy in Cancún
  • 2 branches of PDC Pharmacy in Playa del Carmen
PDC Pharmacu
Two branches of the PDC Pharmacy were closed in the city of Playa del Carmen. (Farmacias de Mexico)

Cofepris said that in many instances, the establishments sell the irregular medications only to foreigners, and that they hand out advertising cards highlighting the sale of prohibited medications without the customer needing to present a prescription.

Operation Albatross was conducted a month or so after a Los Angeles Times newspaper investigation revealed that pharmacies in some of Mexico’s tourist destinations were selling counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl and methamphetamine. Reporters identified at least six people who had overdosed or died after taking pills they bought from pharmacies in Mexico, noting that grieving families have long been trying to alert Congress and U.S. officials of the risk. The U.S. State Department, however, didn’t issue any type of official warning until March.

Reports on the Cofepris operation didn’t indicate whether anyone was criminally charged.

In its release, Cofepris invited people to make any additional health complaints via a government website.

With reports from La Jornada, Los Angeles Times and Cofepris

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