“Boots vitamins contained a mysterious pill and I’m afraid it’s something sinister”

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Dear reader,

Just a few years ago, you were shopping in your hometown when Sergei Skripal and his daughter were hit there by a deadly nerve agent planted by Russian agents. You were shaken by the incident, which still plays in your mind. I completely understand and sympathize.

While the odds of something being maliciously planted in your Boots vitamins were extremely low, I thought the company should have done more to reassure you, so I asked them to send the pill for testing.

Boots said it used an online pill checker to match the tablet’s appearance to generic ibuprofen. However, he couldn’t be sure that was 100% true, he said.

Boots insisted it was highly unlikely the pill would have entered the tub during production, thanks to strict safety protocols. He seemed reluctant to do a formal lab test.

I think Boots suspected the pill was an ibuprofen pill from your house that somehow ended up in the package.

You insisted that this could not be the case, although I confess that I was beginning to doubt it. Still, I was disappointed in Boots’ dismissive attitude.

We both agreed that he 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 that, Boots said the pill had been destroyed so no further testing could be done.

Its composition remained a mystery and my curiosity exploded. I studied the photo you provided and noticed that the surface of the pill was somewhat crumbly.

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

I asked if you thought the pill might be an illegal drug, like ecstasy. You said that was extremely unlikely, as your children were quiet, domestic types.

You weren’t offended by my suggestion and agreed to have a conversation with them.

In the meantime, I contacted a drug expert from Tictac, a drug identification service, who looked at the photo and said he thought it was a estrogen tablet.

Of course, without testing it, he couldn’t be 100% sure, but, reassuringly, he said he would bet his own house that this pill was not an illegal drug. Thus, your children were saved and your spirit was reassured.

A quick search of the Tictac database by this expert revealed a very strong match to a drug called Elleste, an estrogen and progesterone pill taken by postmenopausal women.

This is the best estimate we can have of what the pill is. I asked you if it could be yours and you told me you didn’t think so as your hormone replacement therapy was in the form of a spray.

So, despite Boots’ initial disbelief that the case might be tied to its own supply chain, I think we need to consider this a serious possibility. No security measure, no matter how strict, is infallible.

If Boots had done more to ease your anxiety before my surgery, it would have saved you a lot of stress and having to ask your kids if they were on drugs.

Stranger – and scarier – things have happened than a dishonest estrogen pill ending up in a jar of vitamin D.

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