More than 26,000 pills of hydroxychloroquine - an anti-malaria drug spruiked by Donald Trump - have been seized at the Australian border. Picture: AFP
More than 26,000 pills of hydroxychloroquine - an anti-malaria drug spruiked by Donald Trump - have been seized at the Australian border. Picture: AFP

Record imports of dodgy COVID cures

Medications believed to cure coronavirus - including an anti-malaria drug spruiked by Donald Trump, are being illegally imported into Australia at record rates.

Border Force officers are seeing a significant spike in detections of Ephedra, a herbal medicine, and Hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat malaria and some auto-immune conditions.

At the end of last year, there were very minimal amounts of Hydroxychloroquine crossing the border and in the first three months of 2020, ABF officers picked up just two kilograms of Ephedra.

But as the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold, officers picked up 66 kilograms of Ephedra in April and May alone, and 26,000 tablets of Hydroxychloroquine from January 1 to June 21, with more than 16,000 seized from May 8 to June 21.

ABF officers are screening medical supplies coming into Australia and have seen a significant spike in detections of Hydroxychloroquine, spruiked by Donald Trump as a covid killer. Picture: AFP
ABF officers are screening medical supplies coming into Australia and have seen a significant spike in detections of Hydroxychloroquine, spruiked by Donald Trump as a covid killer. Picture: AFP

US President Donald Trump first spruiked the anti-malaria medication on his Twitter account in March, and in May said he had been taking it daily for about a "couple of weeks".

"I happen to be taking it," he said during a roundtable event at the White House. "A lot of good things have come out. You'd be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the frontline workers. Before you catch it. The frontline workers, many, many are taking it."

According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the use of Ephedra has serious potential side effects, including high blood pressure, heart attacks, seizures, strokes and death.

Additionally, importing the medication carries a potential 25-year jail sentence and a fine of up to $1.1 million.

Imports of Ephedra have spiked too, with 66 kilograms of the herbal medicine seized at the border. Picture: AFP
Imports of Ephedra have spiked too, with 66 kilograms of the herbal medicine seized at the border. Picture: AFP

Hydroxychloroquine can cause cardiac toxicity, which can lead to sudden heart attacks, irreversible eye damage, and severe depletion of blood sugar, which can lead to a coma.

ABF Assistant Commissioner, Port Operations Command, Erin Dale said there were "serious health risks" to self-prescribing these drugs.

"It is illegal to bring these substances into Australia without the proper permits and I strongly urge Australians against importing these items," she said.

"Every day, ABF officers are on the lookout for these medications and when they are found, they will be seized at the border."


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