While many pharmacists act as custodians for their patients’ safety, three different pharmacists in California, New York, and Pennsylvania have either been indicted or pleaded guilty to charges ranging from prescription drug smuggling and money laundering, to heath care fraud and illegal diversion and reselling of highly sensitive HIV medications, all in the final weeks of 2013.
Pharmacist Daniel Burdine, owner of Alvarado Medical Pharmacy in San Diego, pleaded guilty December 4th, 2013 to health care fraud charges relating to his purchase and prescribing of illegally imported cancer medications from questionable Canadian distributor, Quality Specialty Products (QSP), according to an FDA press release on the occasion of his guilty plea. QSP was one of the foreign suppliers of counterfeit Avastin in February 2012 according to the FDA warning letter sent to medical professionals when the fake Avastin first came to the attention of authorities.
In his guilty plea, Burdine admitted that “between May 2010 and June 2011, [he] ordered $752,688.00 of unapproved prescription oncology drugs from a Canadian distributor, Quality Specialty Products (“QSP”). The drugs ordered from QSP were unapproved versions of drugs sold in the United States as Avastin, Eloxatin, Gemzar, Neupogen, Rituxin, Taxotere, and Zometa, and were shipped from Canada to Alvarado Pharmacy in San Diego,” reports the FDA.
The FDA press release also states that “Alvarado Pharmacy further admitted that it supplied the unapproved foreign oncology drugs purchased from QSP to doctors pre-mixed, in an infusion bag, without advising the doctors that the drugs came from abroad and were not approved for use in the United States.”
Burdine is scheduled to be sentenced February 21,2014 according to the FDA.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges that pharmacist Purna Chandra Aramalla was conducting an illegal buyback program through his pharmacy, wherein he would purchase HIV medications from HIV patients, then resell the old medication to other HIV patients. Aramalla was indicted in a Manhattan Federal court on December 12, 2013.
As U.S Attorney Preet Bharara described Aramalla’s alleged crimes, “The illegal diversion of prescription medications threatens the health of those induced to sell their medication rather than take it. It threatens the health of those who unwittingly purchase the repackaged drugs believing them to be factory-fresh. And, as alleged here, Purna Aramalla’s diversion scheme defrauded millions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid, taxpayer-funded programs established to provide health care assistance for the elderly and indigent. This Office is committed not only to punishing and preventing fraud, and safeguarding Medicare and Medicaid, but also to protecting the public,” reports the DOJ.
This investigation is being conducted by FBI and the IRS. Mr. Bharara also thanked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the New York State Office of Medicaid Inspector General, and the New York City Human Resources Administration, reports the DOJ.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that pharmacist Bryan R. Polomoscanik, who worked at Dierken’s Pharmacy in Monongahela pled guilty to charges that he conspired to smuggle illegally imported prescription drugs on December 10, 2013. He also pleaded guilty to money laundering charges.
According to a report in TribLive, Polomoscanik first began importing medication from Canada in 2007, and continued doing so until June 14, 2011, when his smuggling was first uncovered. Trib Live also reports that the owner of Dierken’s Pharmacy, Jeffrey Markovitz, pleaded guilty to the same counts faced by Polomoscanik in January, 2013.
As part of his plea agreement, Polomoscanik has been required to forfeit $1.45 million in illicit profits, and faces sentencing on May 1st, reports the Post Gazette.