U.S. Scourge Spreads South Of The Border — страница 2

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Rohypnol has a respected corporate manufacturer–the Swiss pharmaceutical giant F. Hoffman-La Roche, which produces in Mexico City. There are so many American tourists buying drugs that Tijuana’s pharmacies have doubled in the past five years and now number around 700. With their cheap, government-controlled prices, they have drawn tens of thousands of Californians, often retirees, who snap up brand-name blood pressure, cholesterol and other medications, often saving 50% of more. and thanks to looser regulations, the pharmacies also readily sell drugs that are unavailable or require prescriptions in the United States, from Prozac to treatments for Aids and cancer. On Tijuana’s Avenida Revolucion, a tourist strip where merchants hawk liquor and Cuban cigars amid the blare of

mariachi music, bustling drugstores with names like Pharmacy America and New York Pharmacy ring up an average of $3000.00 in sales a day, a local Tijuana pharmacist said. While they lack hard proof, U.S. authorities have told the Mexican government at a couple of meetings in the past month that they believe the pharmacies are selling Rohypnol to young Americans. Mexican officials say they are cracking down. Well, they say they are, but are they? With so much government corruption, especially in the city of Tijuana, you can only think of how much money is being made in this enterprise and who’s getting some kick- backs. My recent visit to Tijuana indicates that Rohypnol is still readily available. It has become a revolving door doctor atmosphere. The U.S. police first began to

spot abuse of Rohypnol, the brand for drug flunitrazepam, in 1993. Although it has never been approved for use in the United States, the sleeping medication is sold legally in 64 countries. But it wasn’t insomniacs who use the drug in Florida and Texas, where Rohypnol first became a problem. The small, inexpensive pills were popped by addicts to heighten a heroin trip, or by teenagers who wanted to feel drunk. Rock star Kurt Cobain overdosed on Rohypnol and champagne a month before killing himself. The most widely know cases are that Rohypnol is blamed in numerous date- rape cases. Men allegedly have slipped it into their companions’ drinks, rendering them unconscious. Since the drug causes short-term memory loss, women have awakened confused and dishelved, only to learn that

they have been assaulted. The Drug Enforcement Agency says it has logged more than 2,400 criminal cases involving Rohypnol. As it increasingly turns up in California, legislators are trying to establish prison terms for people possessing or selling the pills, nicknamed ?roofies.? Last month, Florida put Rohypnol into the same legal category as heroin and cocaine. Worried about the abuse, Hoffman-La Roche has slashed its Rohypnol distributors in Mexico from 200 to 16 and said it hired a former DEA agent, who established that there was no diversion from its Mexico City factory. The U.S. authorities don’t see much of a let-up in the amount of Rohypnol from hitting the streets. Even with recent actions, Rohypnol has become much tougher to obtain and sell, several drugstore owners

said. Nonetheless, in a personal visit to 15 pharmacies, I was able to find one willing to sell it over the counter. Others suggested nearby doctors who would provide a prescription. I went to nearby medical office lined with oil paintings of Jesus, I filled out a brief form asking if I had ulcers or heart attacks. At no point was I asked of my symptoms. A doctor with a white coat glanced at the form and asked what drug I wanted. ? Rohypnol,? I replied. ?Each prescription is $25,? he responded. The visit lasted a brief 10 minutes. No comment on the exact location of the medical office in order to protect my source of information. I took the prescription to one the Tijuana pharmacies and the price for Rohypnol was $10. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration frowns on the

practice, there is nothing stopping Americans from buying most medicines from Mexican pharmacies. U.S. Customs normally allows Americans to bring in a ? personal supply? of prescription drugs-up to 90 days worth, to be declared a the border. The average age of the consumer was around 34 (when I asked one of the United States Customs agents). I feel the Rohypnol problem is fairly new in California, but also Californians may simply be stuffing the drug in tote bags or pockets. Rohypnol is also apparently being smuggled to the United States from Columbia, where Hoffman-La Roche has a plant. But what is turning up in Texas and California is from Mexico and appears to be coming through the pharmacies. The Haight Ashbury Clinics, a San Francisco group, recently conducted Hoffman-La