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Hotline Proposed for Illegal Medicine Sales

April 13, 1999

Orange County prosecutors want to set up toll-free hotlines in three languages for residents to report illegal pharmaceutical sales in the county.

The hotlines--in English, Spanish and Vietnamese--are part of the district attorney's response to the deaths over the past two years of two Orange County toddlers and a teenager who were injected by unlicensed personnel with illegally obtained medicine.

The county's Health Care Agency also hopes to set up a toll-free line to act as a clearinghouse for residents to call and learn about free and low-cost medical care that is available in the community.

Two of the deaths occurred within 10 months over the past year, spurring action by public officials.

"We've had two deaths within a year of young children," said Ron LaPorte, a health care agency executive. "Anyone would say that two deaths of little kids is two too many, and that's a problem we want to address."

In January, 18-month-old Selene Segura Rios of Anaheim died after receiving an injection of what her parents were told was penicillin by an employee in the back room of Los Hermanos Gift Shop in Tustin. A year ago, Christopher Martinez, 13 months, of Santa Ana, died after an unlicensed practitioner injected the boy five times with drugs at a storefront clinic in Santa Ana.

In December 1997, a 15-year-old boy died after being treated with allegedly illegal drugs.

The telephone lines being set up by the district attorney's office are designed to allow the public "to confidentially report incidents of illegal pharmaceutical sales," according to the summary.

County supervisors are expected to consider reports from both agencies later this month.

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