September 11, 2023: Global fake medicine trade's scope revealed with incidents in U.K., India, Turkey and elsewhere

This week: A U.K. couple was sentenced for selling 65 different brands of unapproved medicines. Counterfeit therapeutic medicines reported in India, Turkey and Pakistan. News about counterfeit pills made of dangerous substances in 13 states.

International News

Two counterfeit medicines prosecutions close in the United Kingdom. Alerts about counterfeit cancer and liver treatments in India and Turkey. Fake anesthesia and blood thinners have killed hospital patients in Pakistan.

In the United Kingdom, three London residents were sentenced to a cumulative 24 years in prison after they made at least two million pounds manufacturing counterfeit Xanax, diazepam and Valium pills, selling them on darknet markets. British authorities became aware of the illegal operation because of a tip from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

A second U.K. prosecution saw two Maidenhead residents sentenced to eight months in prison for the illegal possession of and intent to supply unlicensed medicines. A search of their home in 2020 yielded over a million pills of 65 different brands of unapproved medicines, including treatments for sexual dysfunction, infertility, obesity, ADHD, breast cancer and HIV.

Brussel’s Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products announced the seizure of more than 1.6 million tablets of illegal medicines—including substantial amounts of the epilepsy drug pregabalin—in a shipment of linseed in July 2023.

The Drug Controller General of India issued an alert about eight batches of counterfeit Adcetris, an injected drug that treats lymphoma, being distributed in person and online.

The World Health Organization warned about fake versions of Defitelio, which treats liver disease, circulating in India and Turkey.

WHO alert about falsified Defitelio included photos of counterfeit packaging. Photo:

The Global Initiative of Transnational Organized Crime examined the impact of drug shortages in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Yemen, noting that as much as 35 percent of medicines in these countries are illicitly sourced and often counterfeit.

Shortages have also led to a wave of black market medicine in Pakistan, where fake anesthesia and blood-thinning medicines have killed several hospital patients.


Guilty pleas in cases involving “research drugs” and counterfeit Adderall. Prosecutions involving fentanyl pills in seven states.

This Facebook screenshot from 2017 is an example of Stabile's marketing.

Ryan Stabile, who imported and sold U.S. residents the unapproved drug tianeptine “for research purposes” through his business Supplements for Work, pleaded guilty in Massachusetts federal court to conspiracy and introduction of misbranded drugs with intent to defraud and mislead. Tianeptine has been linked to overdoses and deaths, and is banned in eight states.

Lowell, Massachusetts resident Ravouth Chhoy pleaded guilty to drug charges related to selling fake Adderall pills made of methamphetamine and illegal possession of a firearm. Law enforcement found Chhoy carrying 6,000 of the counterfeit pills after he agreed to sell 5,000 of them to a confidential source.

Dominican national Ana Checo pleaded guilty in Massachusetts federal court to money laundering and possession of over 60 kilograms of fentanyl on September 6. A July 2019 search of her home also yielded four kilograms of tramadol.

Canadian Marie Um received a 23-year federal prison sentence and must pay $11,050 for her part in a ring that sold fentanyl powder and pills that killed or seriously injured people in four states. Um’s prosecution is part of Operation Denial, which launched in 2015 after the death of a teenager in North Dakota.

In Texas, Patrick James Hall received a 30-year sentence for selling now-deceased Isabella Render a counterfeit oxycodone pill made with fentanyl in a San Antonio hotel room.  When Render collapsed, Hall left the hotel without calling 911.

Ryan Harrison received a seven-year state prison sentence for selling 13-year-old Luca Manuel of Redding, California a counterfeit, fentanyl-laced Percocet pill that killed him in August 2020. The transaction was arranged via Snapchat.

People in Surprise, Arizona; Arlington, Washington and Casper, Wyoming are facing charges related to counterfeit pill deaths or poisonings.

Additional defendants were convicted or sentenced for charges related to possession or trafficking of counterfeit pills in Windsor, Connecticut; Orlando, Florida and Port Angeles, Washington.

Family advocates in Illinois and in Texas (Dallas and Travis County) spoke about losing loved ones to deceptive counterfeit pills made with fentanyl.

To help prevent more deaths, talk to your family about fentanyl and learn to use Narcan, to reverse overdoses. It's available over the counter.



Counterfeit pill seizures in nine states

Law enforcement in Evansville, Indiana concluded a lengthy investigation by seizing 74,000 fentanyl pills.

Counterfeit pills made with fentanyl were also confiscated in Loveland, Colorado; Detroit, Michigan; Scottsbluff, Nebraska; Fargo, North Dakota; Burkburnett, Texas; Spotsylvania County, Virginia; Spokane, Washington and Cheyenne, Wyoming.