‘Boots vitamins contained mystery pill and I’m scared it’s something sinister’

Dear Reader,

It was only a few years ago that you were out shopping in your home town when Sergei Skripal and his daughter were struck down there by a deadly nerve agent planted by Russian agents. You were shaken by the incident, which still plays on your mind. I totally understand and sympathise. 

While the chances of something being planted maliciously in your Boots vitamins were extremely small, I felt the company should have done more to put your mind at rest, so I asked it to send the pill off for testing.

Boots said it had used an online pill checker to match the tablet’s appearance to a generic ibuprofen. However, it could not be 100pc sure this was right, it said. 

Boots insisted the pill was highly unlikely to have made its way into the tub during production, thanks to strict safety protocols. It seemed reluctant to do a formal lab test. 

I think Boots suspected the pill was an ibuprofen tablet from your home that had somehow made its way into the pack. 

You insisted that could not be the case, though I admit I was starting to doubt this. Still, I was disappointed by Boots’ dismissive attitude. 

We both agreed it should go ahead with the lab test. Hopefully, the pill would test positive for ibuprofen, allowing you to relax.

Two weeks later the lab test for ibuprofen came back negative. On top of this, Boots said the pill had been destroyed, so no further tests could be done. 

Its composition remained a mystery and my curiosity went through the roof. I studied the photo you provided and noticed that the pill’s surface was somewhat crumbly. 

This, and the fact that Britain’s biggest pharmacy chain had failed to identify it, led me to wonder whether it had in fact been manufactured illegally. I asked how old your children were, and you said 16 and 22. Both still lived at home.

I asked whether you thought there was any way the pill could be an illegal drug, such as ecstasy. You said it was extremely unlikely, as your children were quiet, home-bird types. 

You took no offence at my suggestion and agreed to have a conversation with them. 

In the meantime, I contacted a drugs expert at Tictac, a drugs identification service, who took one look at the photo and said he thought it was an oestrogen tablet. 

Of course, without testing it he couldn’t be 100pc sure, but, comfortingly, he said he would bet his own house that this pill was not an illegal drug. So your children were off the hook and your mind was put at rest.

A quick search on the Tictac database by this expert brought up a very strong match to a medication called Elleste, an oestrogen and progesterone pill taken by menopausal women.

This is the best guess we may ever have as to what the pill is. I asked you whether it could be something of yours and you said you didn’t think so, as your hormone-replacement therapy treatment was in the form of a spray.

So, despite Boots’ initial disbelief that the matter could relate to its own supply chain, I think we have to consider this as a serious possibility. No safety measures, however stringent, are infallible. 

Had Boots done more to quell your anxiety before my intervention, it would have saved you from a great deal of stress and from having to ask your children whether they were druggies. 

Stranger – and scarier – things have happened than a rogue oestrogen tablet winding up in a pot of vitamin D.

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