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FDA: Mexico Orders Pill-Dispensing Clinics Shut Down

February 11, 1987 GMT

DALLAS (AP) _ U.S. officials say the Mexican government told them it is shutting down border clinics that dispense diet pills no longer allowed to be transported into the United States.

But the Chihuahua state public health coordinator said Tuesday night that no closure orders have been issued and that his office is only investigating how doctors in those clinics are prescribing medication.

Gerald Vince, the Dallas-based regional director for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Mexico City advised that it was closing an unspecified number of clinics in Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, the sister city of El Paso, Texas.

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The action stemmed from a telegram the FDA sent to the Mexican government late last month, advising of problems and health concerns it had with the pills, he said.

Vince said the closure order came from Dr. Mario Lieberman with the Mexican government’s department of health in Mexico City. His office, he added, has since received complaints from Americans who were refused pills in Mexico.

But Dr. Carlos Adame Saldivar, public health services coordinator for the border state of Chihuahua, told the El Paso Times that ″as of now, there is no order to close any of the clinics in any border city in the country.″

Vince conceded he had no independent corroboration that the clinics had been shut down.

The reports Tuesday coincided with a U.S. Customs order to its checkpoints along the Mexican border to block imports of a diet pill called Redotex that the FDA has concluded is dangerous.

Four suspicious deaths that may be associated with the drugs have occurred in Texas within the past year, according to Dennis Baker of the Texas Department of Health.

The Customs alert also expressed concern about some otherwise legal drugs - including Ponderex and Moduretic - being taken along with Redotex. But Customs apparently was not told to automatically detain them unless they were being brought in along with a supply of Redotex.

FDA spokesman Ed Nida said the import alert called for Customs to ″automatically detain all entries including those encountered ... during routine examination of baggage, of Redotex; and other diet drugs mentioned above if encountered in combination with Redotex.″

Ponderex and Moduretic were in the ″mentioned above″ category.

Ponderex is an amphetamine used as an appetite suppressant; Moduretic has FDA approval as a diuretic for treatment of high blood pressure.

Spokesman Roy Walker said Tuesday that some patients taking Moduretic under supervision of U.S. doctors for hypertension were unnecessarily alarmed after hearing the drug had been included in the FDA’s import alert in conjunction with Redotex.

″Our position would be that patients taking Moduretic should continue to as recommended by their doctors,″ said Walker. ″We do not recommend or subscribe to the use of the drug for any other purpose such as diet or weight control in the United States nor do we recommend the use of any prescription drug without adequate medical supervision.″