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Wisconsin man in Mexican jail for buying medicine without prescription

May 10, 1997

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) _ Like thousands of Americans, David Busch stepped briefly across the border on a Saturday afternoon to stock the family’s medicine cabinet.

That was March 15. He still hasn’t gone back.

The 45-year-old insurance consultant from Wauwatosa, Wis., is being held at Tijuana’s notoriously tough La Mesa Prison. If convicted, he faces 10 to 25 years in prison. Mexican prosecutors contend that he not only was buying controlled medicines without a prescription but planning to sell them.

``The law is very clear,″ Alberto Cardenas Ochoa, a federal prosecutor in Tijuana, told The San Diego Union-Tribune in Friday’s edition. ``I don’t think that even Perry Mason is going to get him out of this one.″

Busch’s experience serves as a cautionary tale for the rising numbers of U.S. consumers who cross into Mexico for cheaper medicines. Mexican federal police in Tijuana are increasingly cracking down on the illegal sales of pharmaceuticals, according to the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana.

Busch purchased medicines typically found in tourist-oriented pharmacies that line Tijuana’s main shopping strip, Avenida Revolucion: antibiotics, antidepressants (Prozac and Paxil), appetite suppressants, a tranquilizer (Valium), a muscle relaxant, herpes cream, and blood pressure medicine.

He paid $566.70 for 13 items, all of which would have required a prescription in the United States.

``I showed them a list,″ Busch said in a telephone interview from the prison. ``I said, `I don’t want to buy anything unless it’s legal.‴

But Mexican prosecutors have charged him with drug trafficking.

He is appealing, and expects a response sometime this month.

``Americans cross and cross every day, wanting to bring back large quantities of medications to the United States,″ said Maria Victoria Gallegos, who heads the federal office that oversees Tijuana’s 800 pharmacies. ``This is drug trafficking.″

Although Busch said he has had prescriptions for some of the items, he carried none when he traveled to Tijuana on March 15.

Three items on the list he carried, two appetite suppressants and the tranquilizer, Valium, were controlled medicines requiring a prescription from a Mexican physician. The rest were items from the second category, commonly sold in Tijuana without prescriptions.

Mexican agents had received an anonymous tip that the pharmacy Busch went to was illegally selling prescription medicines, said Cardenas, the federal prosecutor. Authorities had placed the pharmacy under surveillance and arrested Busch as he left the store.

According to a federal police report, Busch acknowledged to the officers that he had no prescription.

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