Counterfeit Medicine News for March 1, 2021

COVID-19 counterfeits and fraud:

The FDA warned Mercola.com to stop claiming their supplements are effective against COVID-19. (Source: FDA's Office of Regulatory Affairs, Health Fraud Branch)

In a blog entry about the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to protect consumers against COVID-19 vaccine scams, Judy McMeekin, the FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, reiterated that FDA-authorized vaccines are free and that they are not sold online.

The FDA has warned prominent 'natural health' marketer Joseph Mercola to stop making unproven claims that supplements he sells will treat or prevent COVID-19. 

FDA sent warning letters to 25 companies that were using fake "registration certificates" to boost sales of COVID-19-related products by giving the impression that they had been authorized by the FDA.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in Chicago seized over 65,000 counterfeit 3M N95 masks that had been shipped from Colombia.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland has seized “remdesivirmx.com,” a fraudulent website that collected personal information from site visitors while claiming to sell remdesivir, an antiviral drug Mexico has approved for the treatment of the COVID-19.

Overseas, South African authorities seized 2400 counterfeit doses of COVID-19 vaccine and a “large quantity” of fake N95 masks and the European Union’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, reported that criminals posing as pharmaceutical company representatives had offered to sell more than 900 million vaccine doses to member states.

Counterfeit News:

In Tennessee, Murfreesboro Police Sergeant Tommy Massey and Rutherford County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Will Holton received the U.S. Attorney’s Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement for their work investigating a series of fentanyl poisonings caused by counterfeit Percocet pills in July 2016.  

After losing her 25-year-old son Landon to a counterfeit Percocet made with fentanyl in May 2020, Arizona State Senator Christine Marsh has introduced a bill that would legalize fentanyl testing strips in an effort to reduce drug deaths.  

Prosecutions and Seizures:

Arnold Ray Walters III of San Diego, California  pleaded guilty to selling the counterfeit  fentanyl pill that killed a 24-year-old Poway resident on January 1, 2017.

Two Colorado residents pleaded guilty to child abuse after their two-year-old daughter,  Jada’Marie Glenn-Turner, died of fentanyl poisoning in February 2020. Her father had been selling pills out of the Lakewood hotel room where she died.

Telly Savalas Carswell, of Midville, Georgia pleaded guilty to possessing and distributing methamphetamine, which he sold in tablet form. The Burke County Sheriff’s Office and the DEA found meth, a pill press, and other drugs in his house last May.

Federal prosecutors filed charges against a Richmond, California man for his alleged role selling counterfeit opioids made with fentanyl. Police found 2,000 fentanyl pills in his car during a traffic stop in January.

The Kern County Sheriff's Office arrested four alleged drug traffickers and seized more than 5,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in a house in Bakersfield, California.

Police in Cedar Park, Texas arrested two men who allegedly distributed counterfeit pills made with fentanyl. A search of their homes in late February netted 1,675 suspected fentanyl-laced pills as well as other drugs.

Police seized approximately 16,000 fentanyl pills in a home and vehicle  in North Seattle.

Sheriffs in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma found 750 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in a compartment in the engine of a car.

A Wyoming district court has charged an Idaho Falls, Wyoming man with bringing fentanyl pills disguised as oxycodone tablets into Sublette County after law enforcement found a bag of fentanyl pills and other drugs in his car. The man was out on bond after Idaho State Police found him with 300 alleged fentanyl pills stamped as oxycodone in January.

Ontario’s Niagara Regional Police arrested a second man implicated in the counterfeit Oxycocet/fentanyl operation they shut down at the U.S. border in February.

The Riverside Sheriff’s Department in California arrested a man who they suspect supplied the counterfeit pills that killed San Jacinto resident Adam Young on March 4, 2021.  An arrest has also been made in the December 2020 death of Rocklin, California teen Zachary Didier.

Warnings and Deaths:

Public health agencies in South Carolina warned residents not to buy prescription medications from sources that do not require a prescription. The warning follows  a bust in Greer, South Carolina that shut down a counterfeiting operation that sold fake Xanax made of Clonazolam to online buyers across the country.

Police in Portland, Maine Police warned that they were investigating whether a recent local death was the result of a counterfeit pain pill made with fentanyl.

The East Longmeadow, Massachusetts Police department warned residents that pills that looked like Oxycontin and ecstasy that they had seized during a traffic stop in 2020 were, in fact, made with fentanyl.

St. Louis, Missouri resident Robin Hotop-Ryan spoke about her son, Brian, who she lost to fentanyl poisoning after he took a counterfeit Xanax in March 2020.

With the help of a K-9, Oklahoma County sheriffs found 750 fentanyl pills concealed inside the engine of a car. (Source: Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office)

Over the last five years, counterfeit pills made with fentanyl or other dangerous ingredients have spread to every U.S. state, and they're killing Americans. 

PSM is keeping a steady eye on public reports of dangerous counterfeit drugs and other medical products. Check back for next week’s summary.