October 23, 2023: Even drugs in development are at risk for counterfeiting

Major Stories

Sketchy online vendors are selling “retatrutide” even though it’s still in clinical trials for another three years. A federal judge sentenced a Californian who sold over $150 million in secondhand prescription medicines to U.S. pharmacies.

Hundreds of online sellers are offering what they claim is a new weight loss drug on websites, google and Instagram ads and social media posts. Retatrutide is in the same drug class as Mounjaro, Ozempic and Wegovy but it is still in development; clinical trials won’t be finished until 2026. The Wall Street Journal suggests that the black market products may be research-grade versions of the drug that could contain impurities but that’s a best case scenario: without regulatory oversight, people could as easily be buying sugar, speed or poison.

Santa Ana, California resident David Miller received a six-year prison sentence and was fined $250,000 for racketeering, fraud, and money laundering committed while distributing illegally sourced prescription treatments for HIV, hepatitis C and other serious illnesses. Between 2007 and 2015 Miller’s company, Minnesota Independent Cooperative, fraudulently sold U.S. pharmacies $157 million in brand-name prescription treatments it acquired from street collectors.

Retatrutide is still in testing.

International News

An Austrian patient was hospitalized after injecting fake Ozempic. Counterfeit drug news in Belize and India.

Austrian regulators reported that a patient had been hospitalized after using a suspected counterfeit Ozempic. The report comes after last week’s news that Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had seized 199 packages of counterfeit Ozempic that had made its way from legitimate suppliers in Austria.

Belize’s Ministry of Health and Wellness warned that fake Tylenol was being pulled from supermarket shelves across the country.

Law enforcement in Uttarakhand, India arrested two men claiming to be former employees of pharmaceutical companies for manufacturing and selling counterfeit drugs through a licensed drug store they had opened in Raipur.

Learn more about the fake Ozempic pens that are putting patients in hospitals.

Domestic News

A physician in California has been sentenced for injecting patients with smuggled cosmetic drugs. A CEO pleaded guilty to selling an unapproved medical device for migraines. Updates on cases involving pill presses and fake Adderall.

Read the criminal complaint  about alleged San Mateo, California-based fake Adderall traffickers.   

Tien Tan Vo, a doctor practicing in Imperial Valley, California, received a sentence of three years probation and will pay more than $300,000 in fines and forfeitures after he injected as many as 178 patients with unapproved cosmetic drugs that had been smuggled into the United States from Mexico. Vo pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to his activity in August 2023.

Mark Wright, the former CEO of Dolor Technologies Inc., pleaded guilty in a Utah federal court to misdemeanor charges for selling SphenoCath, an unapproved medical device that claimed to treat migraines by administering blocks to nerves located behind a patient’s face.

A Vallejo, California resident who manufactured fake MDMA pills made of methamphetamine from the elderly care home he ran with his wife has been convicted after a six-day trial.  When police raided the facility and Harry Benson’s storage unit in 2019, they seized pills, bags of powders, multiple pill presses and other drug paraphernalia. His wife and coconspirator, Roselle Cipriano, pleaded guilty.

Four San Mateo, California residents have been indicted for their alleged sales of counterfeit Adderall pills made of methamphetamine to buyers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Court documents characterize the operation as a “DoorDash style” delivery service that sold methamphetamine pills, cocaine, and MDMA via Signal, with deliveries to regional locations on specific days of the week.