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Report: Antibiotics from Dominican Republic sold illegally in NYC corner stores

MIAMI - AUGUST 07:  Bottles of antibiotics line a shelf at a Publix Supermarket pharmacy August 7, 2007 in Miami, Florida. Publix has decided to start giving away seven commonly prescribed antibiotics for free. The oral antibiotics will be available at no cost to any customers with a prescription as often as they need it.  Publix will offer 14-day supplies of the seven drugs at all of the company's pharmacies. The supermarket chain operates 684 pharmacies in five states.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

MIAMI - AUGUST 07: Bottles of antibiotics line a shelf at a Publix Supermarket pharmacy August 7, 2007 in Miami, Florida. Publix has decided to start giving away seven commonly prescribed antibiotics for free. The oral antibiotics will be available at no cost to any customers with a prescription as often as they need it. Publix will offer 14-day supplies of the seven drugs at all of the company's pharmacies. The supermarket chain operates 684 pharmacies in five states. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)  (2007 Getty Images)

In the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, customers circumvent the medical system routinely by heading to the corner bodega to buy antibiotics – without a doctor’s prescription and at a dollar a pill or less.

Local New York TV station, WPIX-11 investigated the black market business. Reporters with video cameras entered shops claiming to have a sore throat or a stomach bug and were able easily to pick up packages of pills claiming to be antibiotics. At most of the stores, cashiers simply reached under the counter and pulled out the pills.

"People are looking for it," one cashier who wasn't identified by the station said. "They're asking me for it, and I want to make the people happy."

WPIX reported that the packaging indicated the pills were ampicillin, manufactured in the Dominican Republic, but there is no guarantee that the packaging correctly identifies what is in the pills. And the cashier's advice as to how to take the medication is often way off, according to pharmacists and doctors the station consulted.

Despite the fact that the practice has been going on for decades and without much secrecy, none of the agencies that could potentially investigate such illicit activity – the New York Police Department, Department of Health and Human Services, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration – is actively looking into the underground sales, according to the station.

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In 2012 the New York Times published a piece about pills selling in stores for .50 cents on the Upper West Side, East Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

World Health Organization (WHO) states that antimicrobial resistance causes an increasingly serious threat to global public health and requires action across all government sectors and society.

In 2013, there were about 480,000 new cases of multi drug-resistant tuberculosis with the drug-resistant strain of the illness having been identified in 100 countries worldwide. These will require treatment courses that are much longer and less effective than those for non-resistant TB.

Antibiotics are meant to be prescribed for bacterial infections and not effective for treatment of viruses, and they are prescribed for specific infections. Taking the wrong medication can make people sicker or cause allergic reactions.

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