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Uninsured use informal street markets to buy medicine, despite risks

Medicine and other remedies are for sale at an informal street market near downtown Los Angeles.
USC Center for Health Journalism News Collaborative
September 05, 2019
Some uninsured immigrants use informal markets such as one in downtown Los Angeles to buy medicine hoping to cure their ailments, in part because they can't afford to buy drugs at pharmacies but also because they're familiar with remedies on sale there from the the countries they immigrated from. Buying medicine without a prescription puts the buyers' health at risk, but that hasn't stopped the activity, including at informal markets that operate online outside the supervision of the FDA. Vladimir Araya, José González and Raúl Lima of KFTV Univision 21 in Fresno, along with the Center's director, Michelle Levander, received a regional Emmy in the Spanish-language health, science and environment category from the Northern California Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for this piece.

A range of aid programs, however, can help people without health insurance or adequate funds purchase drugs they need without resorting to informal markets.


Follow the USC Center for Health Journalism Collaborative series "Uncovered California" here  

About This Series

This project results from an innovative reporting venture – the USC Center for Health Journalism News Collaborative – which involves print and broadcast outlets across California, all reporting together on the state’s uninsured. Outlets include newspapers from the McClatchy Corp., Gannett Co., Southern California News Group, and La Opinion, as well as broadcasters at Univision and Capital Public Radio. 

Topics in this Series

  • Affordability
  • Access to Care
  • Expanding Coverage
  • Undocumented & Uninsured
  • Legislative Fixes