May 1, 2023: British Columbia enacts regulations to stop Ozempic exports

This week: Canadian authorities resist the U.S. pilfering its drug supply. Officials warn about semaglutide sales on social media, an appetite supplement with dangerous ingredients and black market cosmetic injectables. A California doctor will pay over a million for treating patients with illegally imported drugs. More reports of tainted cough syrup, and news related to counterfeit pills made of fentanyl and other drugs in 20 states.

National News

British Columbia protects its drug supply. U.K. doctors call out semaglutide sales on Facebook. FDA warns about Apetamin. A new report links fake online pharmacy sales to adverse events.

After officials in British Columbia stopped a doctor in Texas from filling his patients’ Ozempic prescriptions in Canada, the province enacted a new regulation to limit the online sale of the diabetes and weight loss drug. This regulation, which requires non-citizens to fill Ozempic and related prescriptions at brick and mortar pharmacies in B.C., can be expanded to include other essential medicines in short supply. Canada is also working at the federal level to prevent mass exports of essential medications from the country.

Physicians in the United Kingdom warned residents not to buy the diabetes and weight loss treatments Saxenda, Wegovy and Ozempic via black market sources on Facebook because “there is no way of knowing what they are buying is what they think it is.” The drug is one of many prescription drugs on offer from unverified sellers on social media platforms, despite rules that forbid the sale of medicines.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about Apetamin, an illegally imported supplement that contains a potent antihistamine that can cause sedation, cognitive impairment, dizziness, and low blood pressure.

An April 2023 report by the consulting firm IQVIA, estimated that medicines filled via illegal online pharmacies caused almost 13% of adverse events for patients between 2017 and 2022 even though they accounted for less than two percent of prescription drugs dispensed to Americans. Read Assessing the Impact of Illegal Online Pharmacies in the U.S.

Family advocates in California, Texas, and Washington educated the public and state legislatures about the dangers of fentanyl and other dangerous substances after the deaths of their children from counterfeit pills.


Physicians and imposters prosecuted for fake weight loss drugs and fake Botox. Counterfeit pill prosecutions advance in 11 states.

San Francisco Bay Area dermatologist Lindsay Clark received a sentence of three years probation and agreed to pay almost $1,070,000 in restitution for illegally importing and injecting several hundred patients with non-FDA approved versions of Botox and Juvederm without their knowledge or consent. Clark pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in November 2022.

Dr. Audrey Arona, 64, of Gainesville, Georgia, pleaded guilty to charges relating to selling an unapproved weight loss drug that contained human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Arona told patients across the country that the medicine was FDA-approved, despite the the FDA’s advice to the contrary in 2020

In Brea, California, Elias Segoviano pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison for providing medical services without a license, including injecting victims with suspected counterfeit Botox, fillers, anesthetics and other drugs.

San Diego, California resident Jonathan Miguel Lopez received a ten-year prison sentence for selling the fake oxycodone pills made with fentanyl that killed Sherie Gil in September 2021.

The government's sentencing memo offers a view into how hard Clark worked to conceal the source of her medicines.

Marcus Randall of Bakersfield, California pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to distribute fentanyl. According to court documents Randall sold fentanyl pills that killed a woman in December 2020.

Nicole Thorson of Rochester, Minnesota pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter for providing fake prescription pills that caused a fentanyl poisoning death in 2021.

Bakersfield, California resident Jose Orozco Acosta pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute after he was caught moving over 65,000 fentanyl pills (approximately seven kilograms) into a storage unit in Syracuse, New York.

People were also convicted or sentenced in drug trafficking cases involving counterfeit pills made with fentanyl or alprazolam (Xanax) in Fort Smith, Arkansas; Tifton, Georgia; Omaha, Nebraska; Rochester, New York; and Caspar and Cody, Wyoming.

Law enforcement charged people with providing fake prescription pills made of fentanyl that killed people in Fort Collins, Colorado; Callaway, Florida; Landenberg, Pennsylvania; and Hayward, Wisconsin.

Seizures in 13 states

Cosmetic injectables seized in Louisville; some on their way to medical settings. Law enforcement seized hundreds of thousands of fentanyl pills, and a pill press.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Louisville, Kentucky worked with the FDA to intercept 150 shipments of 744 unapproved, counterfeit, and otherwise illicit Botox, other brands of botulinum toxin type A products, and dermal fillers during a five-day period in April. 42 of those shipments were headed to licensed medical providers. As the director of Louisville’s port of entry noted, non-FDA approved injectable products are a serious risk to patients. There is no way to be sure that they are safe and authentic.

100,000 fentanyl pills, three kilos of heroin and a kilo of fentanyl powder seized near La Grande, Oregon in April 2023 (Oregon State Police)

Investigators seized 100,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl and eight pounds of other illicit drugs from a vehicle on I-84 in LaGrande, Oregon.

Law enforcement seized 90,000 fentanyl pills, 1/2 pound of methamphetamine, and a stolen firearm during the search of a hotel in Green River, Utah.

Police in San Bernardino, California seized 90,000 prescription pills made with fentanyl and eight kilos of fentanyl powder during the search of a suspect’s vehicle and home.

Law enforcement in Charleston, South Carolina seized two-and-a-half pounds of fentanyl powder and a pill press, among other items, when they raided an apartment in West Ashley.

There were also counterfeit pill seizures in Johnson County, Kansas; Lake Charles, Louisiana; Dresden Township, Missouri; Morrill, Nebraska;  Sharon, Ohio; Salem, Oregon; Erie, Pennsylvania; Blacksburg, South Carolina; Bledsoe County and East River, Tennessee and Campbell County, Wyoming.

International News

Counterfeits reported in Cameroon, India, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands.

The WHO issued an alert about poisonous diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol in a guaifenesin syrup that bore the name of a product made in India. The contaminants were found in cough syrups that were linked to the death of hundreds of children last year. The manufacturer of the syrup claims that the drug, which was found in Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, is a counterfeit.

Authorities in Cameroon reported nine pediatric deaths as a result of kidney failure from a fake cough medicine that has not been approved for sale in the country.

Authorities in Uttar Pradesh, India seized 30 cartons of counterfeit medicines from a ring that allegedly supplied fake drugs to buyers in several Indian states, including a medical agency in Odisha.

The WHO issued an alert about contaminated versions of this cough syrup sold in Micronesia.