Dr. Diana Anda Norbergs, a Florida oncologist convicted in November 2016 of importing misbranded, non-FDA approved cancer drugs from unlicensed suppliers, has been sentenced to almost six years in federal prison, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment alleged that Norbergs purchased prescription cancer treatments from unlicensed foreign suppliers. According to the DOJ, Norbergs originally bought injectable cancer treatments from Quality Specialty Products (QSP), a CanadaDrugs.com subsidiary. When QSP closed, she sought the medications from other foreign suppliers, eliciting a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration in 2012.
The letter, dated April 5, 2012, stated that “your medical practice purchased multiple medications from a foreign distributor named Richards Pharma, also known as Richards Services, Warwick Healthcare Solutions, or Ban Dune Marketing Inc. (BDMI). Many of the products sold and distributed by this distributor have not been approved by the FDA. The manufacture and handling of these products may not be of suitable quality to ensure safety or efficacy, and the products have not been proven to be safe and effective pursuant to FDA standards. The Agency is very concerned that products distributed by this distributor may cause harm to patients, because they may be unsafe or ineffective.”
The letter described how Richards Pharma was distributing a counterfeit version of Altuzan, the Turkish brand name for a cancer drug sold in the U.S. as Avastin.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Norbergs, the former owner and operator of East Lake Oncology, treated patients with at least $700,000 worth of misbranded drugs, then billed Medicare as if the drugs were FDA-approved, pocketing the difference for herself.
Trial transcripts reveal the names of people, Arthur Berman, Crystal King, and Margaret M. Schafer, who were among the 66 patients that received the imported drugs. Lori Reed, another victim, testified at Norbergs’ sentencing. Reed lost her mother, Wanda Colgan, to cancer in 2011. Reed told the court: “I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering if my mother would have lived longer if she’d gotten the treatment she deserved.”
The Tampa Bay Times notes that Norbergs gave up her medical license in May of this year. In addition to her prison sentence, Norbergs has been ordered to pay $848,671 in fines and restitution.