July 5, 2023: Federal authorities move on black market HIV drug sales
This week: The FDA warned Safe Chain Solutions for trading with unlicensed sellers. Prosecutions of other black market HIV drug distributors are moving forward. The CDC reported a spike in fentanyl/xylazine deaths. Authorities seized a pill press, illegally imported codeine and millions of counterfeit pills made of fentanyl. Prosecutions involved the trafficking of and deaths related to fentanyl pills in 10 states.
Criminal and regulatory consequences emerge for black market HIV med sales. CDC data shows that almost 10% of fentanyl deaths also involve xylazine. The DEA called out social media platforms for drug sales.
Defendants in Gilead Sciences’ wide ranging lawsuit against a network of pharmacies and distributors responsible for putting 85,000 counterfeit bottles of HIV medicines on U.S. pharmacies’ shelves are seeing additional consequences.
- Alleged kingpin Lazaro Hernandez was sentenced to 15 years in Florida federal courts for his participation in this drug diversion scheme and an earlier operation that distributed HIV, cancer and psychiatric drugs between 2013 and 2019.
- A federal grand jury in New Jersey indicted the owner of Brooklyn-based drug distributor Scripts Wholesale for his participation in the scheme.
- The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Division of Pharmaceutical Quality Operations warned Safe Chain Solutions, LLC for violating track-and-trace regulations enacted to protect patients from “counterfeit, stolen, contaminated, or otherwise harmful medicines.” FDA rebuked the distributor for trading with unlicensed partners and cited incidents in Gilead Sciences’ complaint.
CDC data shows a 276 percent increase in drug deaths from a combination of fentanyl and xylazine between January 2019 and June 2022. That increase partly reflects increased testing for xylazine, but records from 31 states and the District of Columbia still show xylazine in nine percent of deaths involving illicit fentanyl over the last 18 months.
Speaking on Meet the Press, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram took social media companies to task for not shutting down drug sales on their platforms.
Parents in Oregon and Virginia spoke about the dangers of fentanyl, sharing stories about loved ones who died after taking counterfeit pills. An 18-year-old in Washington who is in recovery for fentanyl addiction after using fake Percocet is also spreading the word.
The U.K. continues to prosecute DNP sellers. Iraq seizes 250,000 Captagon pills. Fake medicines reported in Cuba, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
A gym owner in Scotland received a three year sentence for making and selling as many as 10,000 DNP capsules as a weight loss product. It’s the same substance that led to retired doctor William Merlino’s sentencing last month.
Iraqi authorities seized 250,000 Captagon pills at a school in a province bordering Syria. The pills, which take the form of a German prescription stimulant that was banned in the 1980s, are widely trafficked in the Middle East.
Cuba's Regulatory Authority of Medicines, Equipment and Medical Devices warned that it had found counterfeit versions of the antihistamine ketotifen, the benzodiazepine clonazepam and a vitamin supplement called Neurobion circulating in the country.
News about prosecutions involving fentanyl pills in 10 states.
David Weaver received a 150-month federal prison sentence for distributing counterfeit prescription pills made with fentanyl. He is one of four people in a distribution chain that ended with the death of a man in Hillsboro, Oregon in 2021.
Dylan Wilson and Scott Keeling will spend 96 months in federal prison for supplying the M30 pills made with fentanyl that killed a 15-year-old in Yamhill, Oregon. The teen, Marie Prine, ordered the pills on Snapchat with a friend during a sleepover in July 2021.
Stephanie Kightlinger of Youngsville, Pennsylvania received a sentence of nine months to two years for dealing the counterfeit pills made with fentanyl that killed a man in January 2023. The transaction was arranged via Facebook Messenger
State and federal courts charged defendants in cases involving counterfeit pills that killed or harmed people in San Jose, California, Manhattan, Kansas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Blue Earth County, St. Cloud, and St. Paul, Minnesota; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Portland, Oregon and Casper, Wyoming,
Seizures of codeine syrup in Philadelphia, a pill press in Florida and millions of fentanyl pills in Arizona, California and Idaho.
Customs and Border Patrol officers intercepted six 17-ounce bottles of codeine syrup on its way from the United Kingdom to an address in Philadelphia. The shipment was manifested as “vegetable glycerin.”
Deputies in Polk County, Florida busted a drug operation in Winter Haven, seizing a pill press and more than three and a half kilos of cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine and other drugs.
Police in Phoenix, Arizona seized a million fentanyl pills from a car during the traffic stop of a man they were investigating for fentanyl-trafficking.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in California intercepted nearly 900,000 fentanyl pills that were concealed inside of porcelain sinks.
Investigators in Idaho Falls, Idaho seized 73,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl, among other drugs, during a bust on June 27.
Bottles labeled “vegetable glycerin” that actually contained codeine syrup. (CBP, June 2023)