Contra Costa County Begins Crackdown on Over-the-Counter Sales of Prescription Drugs in Latino Supermarkets
Contra Costa County health officials yesterday raided several supermarkets that illegally sold prescription medications over the counter, seizing hundreds of pharmaceuticals including Viagra, Accutane and birth control pills, the Contra Costa Times reports. The medications, apparently manufactured in or distributed from Mexico, were being sold over the counter by the stores, which primarily serve the Latino community. State law prohibits the sale of prescription drugs without a pharmacy license. Joe Dosser, a county environmental health specialist who led the raid, said the county will expand its investigations to other Latino supermarkets in the area. "This is the first time we've seen [illegally sold prescription drugs] in Contra Costa," he said, adding that Los Angeles and Napa counties have reported similar problems. Although officials say it is impossible to know how many people are using the medications, they agree that it is a "widespread and highly risky" problem. John Pescetti, medical director of an Oakland community clinic that primarily serves immigrants, said taking prescription medications without instructions from a physician is "very dangerous" and raises the possibility of improper dosing and serious side effects. But Pescetti added that many immigrants, particularly those who are uninsured or do not speak English, may find buying prescription drugs at a supermarket less expensive and more convenient (Rauch, Contra Costa Times, 4/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.