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Pharmacy tech accused of stealing hydroxychloroquine

An arrangement of hydroxychloroquine pills.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

A pharmacy technician is facing criminal charges after he allegedly stole a combination of anti-malaria tablets and antibiotics that have been promoted by President Trump as a potential treatment for coronavirus.

Christopher Mencias Agustin, 35, of Torrance was charged this week with two felony counts of second-degree burglary during an emergency and one felony count of concealing or withholding stolen property exceeding $950.

Agustin is accused of entering Harbor-UCLA Medical Center to steal prescription drugs on two occasions last month. He is charged with taking more than 700 tablets of hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat malaria and was recently touted as a possible COVID-19 treatment, along with azithromycin.

It is a drug combination first held up by some European doctors as assisting the battle against COVID-19 and embraced as helpful by Trump. But a recent advisory from the National Institutes of Health recommends against the use of hydroxychloroquine in conjunction with the antibiotic azithromycin in COVID-19 cases. The advisory carries the code A-III, meaning that it’s a “strong recommendation” against its use, based on “expert opinion.” The NIH cites the drug combination’s “potential for toxicities.”

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Agustin is due to be arraigned in a downtown court Wednesday. Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Fern of the Cyber Crime Division, who is prosecuting the case, said the prescriptions were worth $6,700.

If convicted of all charges, the now-former pharmacy technician could face up to four years and four months behind bars.


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