October 30, 2023: More contaminated eye drops found on retail shelves

Major Stories

FDA warned about contamination in 26 different over-the-counter eye drops. Ten New York residents were indicted in another black market HIV medicine scheme. CBP launches Operation Apollo to further disrupt the fentanyl trade.  

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  warned consumers not to purchase and to immediately stop using 26 over-the-counter eye drop products due to the potential risk of eye infections that could result in partial vision loss or blindness. The contaminated eye drops have been sold under several brand names, including CVS, Rite Aid and Target’s house brands.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Southern California announced the launch of Operation Apollo, a joint regional initiative that aims to further disrupt fentanyl trafficking through the interception of precursor chemicals; pill presses and pill press parts, as well as stopping the flow of money to traffickers.

Watch PSM's video about last month's eye drop warnings.

Federal prosecutors in New York unsealed a superseding indictment charging ten people collecting, repackaging and reselling discounted, second-hand HIV drugs to New York-area pharmacies. According to the government, the defendants pocketed $20 million in insurance reimbursements by billing Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies the price they would have paid for legitimate medicines. In addition to this scheme, which allegedly took place between 2017 and 2023, the Department of Justice press release alleges that two of the defendants used online prescription drug marketplaces to extend this activity to other pharmacies around the country. This scheme is the latest in a series of criminal prosecutions tackling black market HIV drug sales, including one that allegedly put more than 85,000 bottles of black market HIV medicines in licensed U.S. pharmacies.

In the wake of Rite Aid’s recent bankruptcy filing and other chain pharmacy closures, safety experts concerned about “pharmacy deserts” warned Americans buying online to make certain that they are ordering medicines from licensed U.S. pharmacies.

International News

European authorities report patient harm from fake semaglutide injections.

Austrian authorities reported that several patients suffered from hypoglycemia and seizures after using counterfeit Ozempic pens that seem to have contained insulin instead of semaglutide.

Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) reported that it had seized 254 units of fake semaglutide in the first nine months of 2023, almost eight times as much seized in all of 2022.

India’s Food and Drug Control Administration confiscated a large volume of counterfeit antibiotics in a series of raids across several cities in Gujarat.

Images of the original and counterfeit of the drug Ozempic shared by Germany's Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices.

Domestic News

Federal authorities arrested a man for selling unapproved medical tests. A Texas resident was sentenced for the illegal importation of prescription drugs from China. A Cape Coral resident got over 20 years for making and selling fake Xanax and oxycodone pills. Three pill presses were seized in Houston, Texas.

Law enforcement arrested a Chinese citizen and former resident of Clovis, California for allegedly using unregistered companies based in Fresno and Reedley to make and distribute hundreds of thousands of non-FDA approved test kits for COVID-19, HIV, pregnancy, clinical urinalysis, and other conditions. The COVID tests, in particular, were denied an Emergency Use Authorization because of “major deficiencies in test studies.”

Evan Asher Field of New Braunfels, Texas received a five-year federal prison sentence and a $250,000 fine for importing bulk quantities of unapproved prescription drugs, including synthetic opioids and benzodiazepines, from China. Field and a codefendant, Michael Dominic Diaz, repackaged the drugs, labeled them “not for human consumption” and sold them to consumers via a website that launched in 2019. They knew, however, that customers were personally consuming their products, and several of those customers overdosed, some fatally. Michael Dominic Diaz is awaiting sentencing.

Pill Press Seizures In The United States

States in pink indicate a pill press seizure history: law enforcement has found a least one pill press making illicit pills. Click the red triangles for specific seizure incidents, January 2023 to the present.

Learn more about illicit presses. 

Brandon Albanito of Cape Coral, Florida was sentenced to almost 22 years in federal prison for charges related to making and selling counterfeit Xanax pills made with clonazolam and fake oxycodone pills made of fentanyl. The Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations began investigating Albanito in 2016 after linking him to packages of illegally imported sildenafil, drug precursors, and controlled substances.  That investigation ended in January 2023 when a search of his home yielded a commercial-grade pill press, hundreds of fentanyl pills and 40,000 counterfeit Xanax pills in a five-gallon bucket.

Authorities seized firearms, three pill press machines and tens of thousands of dollars worth of illicit drugs when they raided a stash house in the Cypress Creek Landing neighborhood of Houston, Texas.