PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: Black Market Thrives in Hispanic Communities
Significant amounts of prescription drugs are being smuggled into California via Tijuana, where they are often sold to low-income, uninsured Hispanic residents, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Stores selling illegal prescription drugs of all kinds are a pervasive problem in the Hispanic community," said Howard Ratzky, an investigator with the state DHS' food and drug division. A U.S. Customs agent said Los Angeles and Orange counties "are a big market for pharmaceuticals smuggled from Tijuana" and that the "problem has grown dramatically in the last three or four years." Figures released Friday show 107 seizures of drugs along the border in the last four months, with six people arrested for smuggling such substances as antibiotics, opiates, barbiturates and Viagra. Contributing to the problem, according to custom officials, Mexican drugs lack quality standards and are often counterfeit. Of even greater concern to officials, however, is the trend among some shopkeepers "not only to sell pharmaceuticals to immigrant customers, but also to take the more dangerous next step" of "giving injections and practicing medicine." Officials are investigating whether illegal medicines contributed to the death of 18-month-old Selene Segura Rios last week after receiving an alleged penicillin injection in the back of a toy store. Ten months ago, 13-month-old Christopher Martinez died after receiving "five injections from a would-be doctor at a storefront clinic in Santa Ana" (Reza/Marquis, 2/27).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.