December 11, 2023: Criminals exploit American patients and professionals with black market medicine schemes

Major Stories

A CNBC story covered details about Lazaro Hernandez’s $230 million HIV drug diversion scheme. A recent survey showed that Americans don’t understand online pharmacy safety.

CNBC’s investigation into Lazaro Hernandez, the leader of a ring that sold $230 million in secondhand HIV medicine to U.S. pharmacies, explains how drug diversion operations work and why they are dangerous. Watch CNBC’s video and learn more about Gilead Sciences’ legal efforts to stop these scammers.

Over half of 1,500 respondents in ASOP Global Foundation’s 2023 consumer survey believe that all online pharmacies that sell to Americans have been approved by U.S. regulators even though only four percent of online pharmacies meet U.S. standards.

International News

Mexican authorities shut down 31 pharmacies in Ensenada for selling suspected counterfeit medicines. The WHO warned that poisonous cough syrup made in Pakistan had been found in five countries.

Authorities in Mexico inspected 53 pharmacies in the coastal city of Ensenada and closed 31 of them, seizing 4,700 boxes of medications that may have been offered for sale without proper safeguards. A press release from Mexico’s Navy said the raids were related to the sale of medicine contaminated with fentanyl.

Three men in Manchester, England were sentenced to three years in prison for the illegal online sale of controlled medicines and treatments for erectile dysfunction and weight loss to customers without prescriptions. When law enforcement searched their homes and offices in 2017, they found approximately 1.8 million pills.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert about five liquid medicines contaminated with dangerous amounts of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol. The drugs, which were manufactured in Pakistan, have been found in Belize, Fiji, Laos, the Maldives and Pakistan. WHO has issued seven warnings about contaminated liquid dosage medicines since June 2022, when children began dying of kidney failure after taking poisoned cold medicine made in India and Indonesia.

Since then, India has stepped up screening cough medicines. Last week the country’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation reported that investigators had sampled 1,105 cough medicines and discovered that 59 samples (five percent) were substandard.

Indian law enforcement also confiscated counterfeit cancer drugs in an unlicensed warehouse in Telangana and raided a pharmaceutical company’s office in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly selling fake injectable anemia treatments.

Cambodian authorities banned the distribution and sale of eight unauthorized medicines that were being advertised via Facebook for sale in the Cambodian market.

The Nigerian state of Ebonyi shuttered five fake hospitals and three counterfeit drug distributors.

Domestic News

CBP in Texas intercepted Xanax smugglers. Pill presses were seized in Massachusetts and Washington.

Customs and Border Patrol agents at the Falfurrias Checkpoint in Texas seized 110 bottles of Farmapram, the Mexican equivalent of Xanax, being smuggled into the country by a U.S. citizen. The bottles were hidden in potato chip bags.

Spokane, Washington’s Regional Street Crimes Unit announced the recent seizure of two pill presses, multiple firearms and kilogram quantities of illicit drugs over the course of an ongoing investigation. According to authorities, one of the pill presses, which can make 17,000 pills per hour, represents the first seizure of a commercial pill press in eastern Washington State.

In Massachusetts, law enforcement announced the seizure of pill presses during the busts of gun and pill trafficking operations in Leominster, and Longmeadow.

Illicit drugs, a small pill press, and pill making supplies seized in Leominster, Massachusetts in December. (Photo, Leominster Police Department)