TIJUANA (Border Report) — Tijuana has pharmacies on just about every block and street corner throughout its downtown and other areas frequented by Americans and city residents.
All of these farmacias have one thing in common these days, the lack of medications, especially those that are prescribed to COVID-19 patients.
One in particular has been in high demand in recent months after being labeled a “miracle medication.”
It’s Olumiant, made by American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.
The drug was originally developed to help people with rheumatoid arthritis inflamation, but it reportedly has positive effects in fighting off respiratory symptoms prevalent in coronavirus patients.
“They call us to try to find it, but we don’t have any here in the store,” said pharmacist Nancy Zazueta, who works at the Jianamed pharmacy in the Zona Rio district of Tijuana. “It is really, really hard to get.”
According to Zazueta, a prescription is required to buy the medication, but there’s a two to three-week waiting period to get it. And not only is it hard to find, but expensive.
“It’s 23,000 pesos per box,” said Zazueta. That’s a little more than $1100.
“Nobody has it, distributors can’t get it and now there’s a lot of people taking advantage and raising the price.”
According to Eli Lilly, The New England Journal of Medicine found that Olumiant, in combination with remdesivir, can cut recovery times by a day or more for COVID-19 patients and that it had a greater effect on the seriously ill in clinical trial results.
In March, pharmacies in Tijuana had been overwhelmed with people seeking hydroxychloroquine, which was being called a “miracle drug” then.
At the start of the pandemic, former President Donald Trump repeatedly touted hydroxychloroquine, an anti-bacterial drugs used to combat malaria and other infections, as being effective against the coronavirus. But health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned against using the drug since tests had not been conducted to determine whether it was safe to take it. Numerous subsequent studies found that hydroxychloroquine had adverse effects COVID-19 patients, and in some instances was fatal.