A Kentucky doctor is facing numerous charges including Medicare fraud for purchasing misbranded IUD contraceptive devices from a pair of fake online pharmacies and dispensing them to unsuspecting patients.
Canh Jeff Vo, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky was charged with 13 counts including illegal drug importation, Medicaid fraud, health care fraud and mail fraud for deceiving his patients with unapproved IUDs purchased from two different fake Internet pharmacies, according to the Indictment (Download Canh Jeff Vo Indictment) filed on March 20, 2013 in US District Court in Western Kentucky. Vo is a licensed physician in Kentucky who owns and operates Bluegrass Women’s Healthcare in Elizabethtown.
In the press release published at the time of Vo’s indictment, the Department of Justice (DOJ) described how Vo, as supervising physician, allegedly purchased non-FDA approved IUDs from March 2008 until September 2009. Patients at Bluegrass Women’s Health thought they were being treated with a genuine Mirena IUD (produced by Bayer), but in fact were being given counterfeit IUDs allegedly purchased from two fake online pharmacies.
WHAS in Kentucky spoke to one of the women treated at Bluegrass Women’s Health, and her concerns mirror what all women treated there must now feel. “You don’t know what kind of side effects or what it’s going to cause, if it causes you to not be able to conceive later on in life.”
Said a patient of Vo’s, Victoria Devine, on WHAS 11’s site, “Where can I get mine removed? I don't want Vo touching me ever again. He put one in me and if I can’t trust that it is what it’s supposed to be I can’t trust him at all. “
Non-FDA approved IUDs may be ineffective and cause unintended pregnancy, or be contaminated, causing unknown infections, or be completely counterfeit and a real danger to women who have them, reports the FDA in their consumer caution on unapproved IUDs. As FDA compliance officer Kathleen Anderson says, “Unapproved products bring a lot of unknowns into the equation. An Internet ad may claim to sell IUDs made in Canada, but there’s no way to be sure. They might have been made anywhere in the world and in unsanitary or undesirable conditions.”
The indictment cites getcanadiandrugs.com as one regular source for the counterfeit IUDs. According to Legitscript, whose mission is to “make the Internet pharmacy and health product sector safer and more transparent for both individuals and businesses,” getcanadiandrugs is owned by a company called Pharmawest. Legistscript warns consumers that “Pharmawest states on their websites that it dispenses drugs from sources outside of Canada and the US. This would not be legal were the drugs imported into Canada, and it is also not in accordance with US laws and regulations related to pharmacy practice and drug safety.” Legitscript points out that the typical so-called Canadian Internet pharmacy will source their prescription drugs from locations as diverse as Turkey, Singapore, or Germany.
The other fake online pharmacy mentioned in the indictment, usdrugstore.com, is also identified by Legitscript as unapproved and part of an affiliate pharmacy operation called Solaris/CanDrug. An affiliate pharmacy is one that belongs to a managing shell company that operates thousands of fake online pharmacies. Each one has different graphics and images, designed to fool consumers into thinking they are visiting different businesses. Legitscript warns that usdrugstore sells unapproved generic drugs from an unidentified pharmacy source. CanDrug was warned by the FDA in February 2013 for selling non-FDA approved prescription drugs to US customers via some of their other affiliate websites.
In addition to the Federal charges Dr. Vo is facing, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has filed a Medicaid fraud lawsuit against him. Attorney General Conway finds that “the allegations we have outlined in our lawsuit are extremely troubling. We take very seriously our obligation to ensure the safety of patients in Kentucky and to hold accountable businesses that put profits ahead of patient care.”
The Federal case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Lettricea Jefferson-Webb. The investigation is being conducted by FDA-OCI, FBI, the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General Office of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control, reports the DOJ.