Counterfeit Medicine News for the Week of July 20, 2020

Policy News:

On Friday, the president signed an executive order to permit the importation of prescription drugs from Canada. PSM joins former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioners, Canadian officials, patient advocates, law enforcement and many others in opposing this policy. This week's video and  PSM's statement explain why.

U.S. Senators Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire introduced The Safeguarding Therapeutics Act, which would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to seize and destroy counterfeit medical devices. The bill joins one introduced in the House in January. Send your legislators a letter supporting this important bill.

Coronavirus Fraud And Counterfeit News:

Seized medicines in boxes and buckets
Fake drug seizures made by Kuwaiti authorities
in 2020. (Source: Interpol)

As of June 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified more than 700 fraudulent and unproven COVID-19 medical products and sent more than 90 warning letters to sellers, 150 reports to online marketplaces, and 250 abuse complaints to domain registrars.

In parallel, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent more than 250 warning letters to marketers making false claims and VoIP service providers for facilitating illegal telemarketing or robocalls around COVID-19. USA Today reports that 37 FTC letters went to clinics such as Dr. Charles Mok's Allure Medical Spa in Michigan for promoting Vitamin C infusions as a COVID-19 preventative. (There is no evidence that vitamin C prevents or cures COVID-19.)

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which has been tracking misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, has published a comprehensive article listing fake COVID-19 treatments.

Overseas, Interpol has seized 17,000 fake COVID-19 testing kits in raids across dozens of countries, 61,000 respiratory masks, 63,000 face masks and 85,000 medical products and a variety of illicit medicine in the Middle East and North Africa since December 2019.

Other Counterfeit News:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Indianapolis, Indiana intercepted six shipments of a sedative called Zolpidem that was illegally shipped from the United Kingdom hidden in coffee cans.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the health department warned about overdoses as a result of isotonitazene, an opioid which has been found in powder and counterfeit pill form.

The San Bernardino County, California Sheriff’s Department warned about counterfeit prescription pills laced with fentanyl. Although authorities have not confirmed the cause of death, two teenage residents are suspected of dying after taking fake pills this month. The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office in Florida made a similar announcement; fentanyl overdoses there have almost doubled since March.

Top view of coffee cans in a box
Coffee cans full of zolpidem seized by CBP
in Indiana, July 2020 (Source: CBP)

Individuals in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Woodland, California have been charged in separate cases with selling counterfeit, fentanyl-laced pills associated with deaths. The department of health in Whatcom County has charged a pharmacy technician with unprofessional conduct because he received fentanyl from China and delivered it to someone who was manufacturing fake pills.

Law enforcement in York County, South Carolina and Lima, Ohio each shut down large pill press operations, seizing kilogram amounts of fentanyl powder, fentanyl pills and other drugs. In Canada, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary seized a commercial-grade pill press during a multi-province drug operation carried out this week.

Renita Faye Taylor in Ft. Thompson, South Dakota received a two-year sentence for selling the counterfeit pills that killed an adult male on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.

In a story about fentanyl deaths spiking in Denver, Colorado, a mother spoke about her daughter, 19-year-old Elizabeth Marie Leyba, who died of fentanyl poisoning as a result of pills in January.

Even as we are dealing with the pandemic, PSM is keeping a steady eye on public reports of dangerous counterfeit drugs. Check back for next week’s summary.