Prescription Drug Smuggling On the Rise!

Prescription Drug Smuggling On the Rise!
Posted by FoM on March 03, 1999 at 05:14:17 PT
Illegal injections linked to cross-border Tijuana 
Major shipments of Mexican prescription drugs are being smuggled into Southern California from Tijuana, fueling greater sales through illegal back-room clinics and storefronts, state and federal officials say. 
The pervasive black-market sales, mainly by Latino merchants, has emboldened shop owners not only to sell pharmaceuticals to immigrant customers but to take a more dangerous new step: Some merchants are giving injections and practicing medicine on customers. Police in the Orange County city of Tustin are investigating whether the illegal practice contributed to the death last week of 18-month-old Selene Segura Rios. The girl died two hours after receiving what her parents were told was a penicillin injection in the back room of a toy store. She was the second Latino child in the last 10 months to die after receiving injections from unlicensed practitioners in Orange County. ``Stores selling illegal prescription drugs of all kinds are a pervasive problem in the Hispanic community,'' said Howard Ratzky, supervising drug investigator for the state Department of Food and Drug. ``It's very hard to stop, and nobody knows how many stores out there are engaging in this.'' Ratzky said the issue has gone beyond ``the trend of an unlicensed store selling prescription drugs.'' Some stores, he said, ``have begun offering medical treatment by people identifying themselves as physicians.'' A U.S. Customs agent in San Diego also noted a growing number of cases where people who sell the drugs also inject them into patients. ``Unfortunately, immigrants know where these places are. They'll go to the back of the store and someone will say, `You look OK,' and an untrained person will give a kid an injection,'' the agent said. The problem with Mexican drugs is that many are counterfeit medicines and the quality control is lax, said U.S. Customs Agent Lisa Fairchild. ``A scarier danger is that sometimes the packets don't contain the medication that the label says is inside,'' Fairchild said. Last Wednesday, the same day that Tustin police announced Selene's death, state agents and local police raided the Trolley Minimart in the Los Angeles County city of El Monte. Investigators seized syringes and numerous pharmaceuticals manufactured in Mexico and hidden in false bottoms of cleanser containers and disguised in vitamin bottles, Ratzky said. Los Angeles and Orange counties ``are a big market for pharmaceuticals smuggled from Tijuana,'' said a U.S. Customs agent who specializes in cases involving illegal prescription drugs. ``The problem has grown dramatically in the last three or four years, but nobody has a handle on how much is being brought across.'' Buyers of illegal prescription drugs are typically low-income and uninsured persons, mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America. But they can also be unwitting customers of pharmacies that bring in medications from Mexico. Despite the increasing number of prescription drug seizures at the border, Customs officials have not maintained statistics on the problem. A Customs spokesman in San Diego said the emphasis is still on tracking the number and quantities of narcotics seizures. The Customs agent, who asked to remain anonymous, said pharmaceutical smugglers range from the nondescript to people like Cliff Holt, a Park City, Utah, pharmacist. Holt was arrested after Customs inspectors seized 19,000 prescription pharmaceuticals at the San Ysidro port of entry January 17, 1998. Federal prosecutors said Holt purchased the drugs cheaply in Tijuana and sold them as U.S.-made pharmaceuticals, making an exorbitant profit in the process. Holt was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison. Customs inspectors and agents said that seizing illegal pharmaceuticals at the border is a difficult task. Conventional drug detection methods, which work well on cocaine, marijuana and heroin smugglers, are almost ineffective against prescription drug smugglers, authorities say. ``You almost have to be lucky -- inspect the right vehicle or look in just the right backpack to stop it,'' said the Customs agent. ``We have rat-packers who make multiple trips, bringing in small amounts at a time,'' he said. ``They store them in San Diego and, when they have a bunch, move them to Orange or Los Angeles counties.'' Lenient penalties also encourage people to smuggle pharmaceuticals, even after they have been arrested multiple times. Illegal possession of prescription drugs is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanor in state court. Practicing medicine without a license, however, is prosecuted as a felony. The back room of Los Hermanos Gift Shop, the Tustin store where Selene received the penicillin injection last Monday night, was stocked with hundreds of illegal pharmaceuticals and syringes, police said. But Lieutenant Michael Shanahan said that unless investigators can prove the injection contributed to the child's death, the store owner and person who administered the shot can only be charged with misdemeanors. 1999 San Francisco Chronicle 
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Comment #1 posted by Lic. Ray A. Rogers on September 27, 2000 at 12:34:51 PT:
Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals
I am presently involved in an investigation involving counterfeit pharmaceuticals being manufactured in one country, then being imported into the USA, and then illegally imported into Mexico for distribution there and other Central American countries. I am looking for background information of any type pertaining to prescription-type counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Can you help me in this matter by sending me related articles, or direct me to a knowledgeable source who has information in this matter? email me at: ray-rogers
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