Almost three years after the original grand jury indictment in November 2014, the owner of Canada Drugs and five of his co-conspirators were arrested on June 14 and 15 in Canada under the Extradition Act, reports CBC News. Kristjan Thorkelson, Thomas Haughton, Ronald Sigurdson, Darren Chalus, Troy Nakamura, and James Trueman have been arrested in connection with the distribution of counterfeit cancer medication in the United States. Prosecutors originally made the extradition request in 2015, according to the Billings Gazette.
In August 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice released the “USA v. CanadaDrugs.com Ltd. Partnership” indictment originally returned against them by the grand jury in November 2014. Besides the six co-conspirators, the indictment also lists Ram Kamath, former Director of Pharmacy Policy and International Verifications for PharmacyChecker.com, Narinder Kaulder, head of operations for River East, Ltd and the following companies: CanadaDrugs.Com, Ltd. Partnership; Thorkelson Consulting, Ltd.; 4208081 Canada, Ltd.; Rockley Ventures, Ltd.; Global Drug Supply, Ltd.; and River East Supplies, Ltd. The federal charges allege that they sold $78 million worth of misbranded and counterfeit cancer drugs to medical professionals across the United States over three years.
CanadaDrugs.com and its subsidiaries listed above are accused of selling non-FDA approved and counterfeit versions of cancer drugs and other medications to doctors and medical practices all over the United States, according to Vice News. Federal investigators uncovered counterfeit and non-FDA approved cancer medications in US doctors’ offices in 28 states allegedly sold by CanadaDrugs.com and its subsidiary companies. Vials of Avastin, a cancer drug, sold by Canada Drugs in the U.S. were tested by the FDA and found to contain cornstarch and acetone, but no therapeutic ingredients, reports the CBC.
“Advocates of importation suggest that there’s no risk in breaking the supply chain and buying medication from foreign sources unlicensed within the U.S. Cases like this prove that the threat is tangible. When we weaken the secure supply chain, we endanger American patients.” said Marv Shepherd, President of the Partnership for Safe Medicines.
All six individuals were released on bail and required to turn over their passports with the expectation that they will appear in court on July 12. Today’s legal step was the start of an extradition proceeding for the executives at CanadaDrugs.com to stand trial in the U.S. However, extradition is not a formality. A judge will determine if U.S. authorities “have provided enough evidence to go to trial in Canada,” for extradition and there is a potential appeals process involving the Justice Minister, the Court of Appeal and possibly the Supreme Court of Canada. The seventh named in the indictment, Ram Kamath, “had a single charge of smuggling dropped in 2015 in exchange for his cooperation with authorities,” reports the CBC.
“Cases like this prove that we shouldn’t outsource the safety of U.S. patients to other countries’ regulators. The possibility that foreign criminals will escape justice is too high,” said Sam Louis, Vice President of the Partnership for Safe Medicines.
You can find more coverage of the CanadaDrugs.com case at: http://www.safemedicines.org/canada-drugs-case