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Cipro purchases up in Mexicali

October 19, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE and DARREN SIMON, Staff Writers

MEXICALI — Pharmacies within blocks of the border here have seen Mexican and U.S. citizens seeking a drug known as Cipro to fend off anthrax infection — a move U.S. authorities say likely isn't necessary.

Cipro, a brand name of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin produced by Bayer Pharmaceutical, is one mass-produced drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for anthrax.

But, FDA officials say, it is not the only treatment.

"It's a misunderstanding to think (Cipro) is the only treatment," said Jason Brodsky, an FDA public affairs officer.

Penicillins and tetracyclines — including doxycycline — can be used as anthrax treatments as well as treating other ailments.

Still, concern about biological terrorist attacks in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the East Coast and subsequent anthrax cases around the country have led people to seek Cipro.

In the United States one can purchase Cipro only if it has been prescribed. Cipro is the only FDA-approved brand of ciprofloxacin.


In Mexico, one doesn't need a prescription, symptoms or even a better reason than "Why not?" to buy a host of generic versions of ciprofloxacin.

At Farmacia Similares, just a short walk south of the border, Mary Cruz Portillo displayed a small blue bottle of an anthrax-fighting drug called Bacproin on Thursday.

Bacproin is one Mexican brand name of ciprofloxacin.

Portillo conceded Bacproin is a generic brand of ciprofloxacin, but she said it is as potent as any name brand.

An Internet search of the brand Bacproin turned up a Spanish-language Web site that states Bacproin is "similar del antibiótico Ciproxina."

Portillo said 50 people — U.S. visitors and Mexicans — have bought the small blue Bacproin bottles in the aftermath of the spate of recent anthrax infections and false alarms.

To meet any future need she has stocked more bottles.

Over at Farmacia Diego's, Leticia Garcia sells Clortory, a generic brand of the antibiotic.

Garcia said 80 percent of customers buying the antibiotic lately have been U.S. visitors.

Her associate, Ruth Crosas, said Diego's has two other generic brands of ciprofloxacin — Kenzoflex and Liferxina.

The brand name Kenzoflex turned up more Web matches than Liferxina or Clortory combined. Kenzoflex is made by Guadalajara-based Collins Pharmaceutical Products.

The drug was sold at Diego's and at Farmacia El Sol, the drug store in the underground mall right next to the border.

Sara Soloreo, an El Sol employee, said she sells the drug to at least two U.S. visitors every day and a number of Mexican buyers.

Meanwhile in Calexico, Veronica Sanchez of Calexico Pharmacy said, "We do have customers who use (Cipro) but we haven't had any cases of people coming in and asking for it."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states on its Web site people should not ask their physicians to write a prescription for Cipro so they can have it on hand in case it is needed.

HHS further states there is a stockpile of antibiotics to deal with anthrax cases should it be needed. HHS warns Cipro should not be prescribed unless "there is a clearly indicated need, so that the drug will be available as the need arises for the standard infections for which it is used."

HHS officials have stated "indiscriminate prescribing and widespread use of Cipro could hasten the development of drug-resistant organisms."

John Pritting, manager of Imperial County emergency medical services, said, "People should not be taking (Cipro) unless they are high-risk — they have been exposed."

He added if people are stockpiling the drug, it could affect supplies.

U.S. Customs Service spokesman Vince Bond said there have been few if any reported cases of people bringing across Cipro through ports of entry in Calexico.

He said it is legal for people to bring the drug across for personal use in small amounts. People are prohibited from bringing over "commercial" amounts of the drug, as is the case with any other medication.

He said the drug has to be declared by the border-crosser, and if it is not and inspectors find it, it can be confiscated.

Bond said inspectors will have to make a decision whether to confiscate on a case-by-case basis. He said the action by inspectors would be fueled by "the totality of circumstances presented to the inspectors."

Bond and Pritting both said people who purchase medication across the border have to be aware whether the medicine they are purchasing is truly what they think it is.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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