Undocumented immigrants are turning to unproven black market COVID-19 remedies, including a drug for deworming horses, because they don’t have proper healthcare access, according to a report

Undocumented immigrants are turning to unproven black market COVID-19 remedies, including a drug for deworming horses, because they don’t have proper healthcare access, according to a report


Summary List Placement

Everyone living in the US can get a free COVID-19 vaccine
regardless of their immigration status,
the Department of Homeland Security
has said — but getting
treatment for COVID-19 is harder for some people, according to a
report by
The New York Times

Some undocumented immigrants are spending thousands of dollars on
unproven coronavirus treatments because they don’t have access to
proper healthcare, it reported.

These COVID-19 treatments include malaria drugs, penicillin, an
antiparasitic drug used to deworm horses, and herbal remedies,
sometimes sold at so-called “wellness” clinics or on the black
market, The Times reported.

Healthcare experts and campaigners told The Times that people
with no health insurance might seek alternative therapies. Some
people were also sceptical towards the government and healthcare
workers, especially when there was a language barrier, they said.

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“My community fears that the government might be trying to get
rid of us,” Oralia Maceda Méndez, an advocate at a community
group for Indigenous people from Oaxaca, Mexico living in Fresno,
California, told The Times.

She said that some immigrants had tried to treat the virus using
penicillin, other antibiotics, or a mix of vitamins and herbal
therapies, including some sold by travelers who had bought them
in Mexico.

“I am not surprised that people are taken advantage of,” she
said. “We don’t have the care we need.”

The Food and Drugs Administration and the Federal Trade
had contacted hundreds of companies over
“health-related COVID-19 scams,” the groups said in April. Those
making “deceptive claims related to the treatment, cure, or
prevention of COVID-19” could face penalties of up to $43,792 for
each violation, they said.

But The Times reported that vendors at a flea market in Fresno
were selling prescription drugs as COVID-19 treatments, without
supporting evidence. These included the anti-parasitic drug

, which is used to deworm horses and
sparked a wave of poisonings
at the start of the pandemic, as
people tried to use it to prevent or treat the virus.

The market also sold
, the malaria drug that
former President Donald Trump backed as a COVID-19
 before the FDA
revoked its emergency-use authorization last June
, and

, a steroid Trump took as he recovered from the

It’s “disappointing but not surprising” that people on low
incomes had spent money on these treatments because they were
“desperate and bombarded with misinformation about the
coronavirus,” Rais Vohra, interim head of Fresno County’s health
department, told The Times.

Sandra Celedon, president of Fresno Building Health Communities,
said that several low-income Latino immigrants had said they had
spent their savings on unproven vitamin infusions and peptide
therapies. Some of these cost more than $1,000, the publication

“These folks are the poorest of the poor, and yet the doctors
were requesting cash for their unproven treatments,” Celedon told
The Times.

The publication reported that even when these drugs aren’t
dangerous, they can cause people to delay getting professional
help from doctors.

And they can also limit which treatments doctors can give a
patient because of potential drug interactions, Dr. Kathleen
Page, an infectious-disease specialist at Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine in Baltimore, told The Times.
Undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America seeking
emergency treatment at her hospital often say they have already
taken treatments including home remedies, vitamins, and
antibiotics, she said.


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