February 12, 2024: Massachusetts doc who implanted patients with unapproved, imported medicine loses at trial

Major Stories

The government won prosecutions in Massachusetts and New Hampshire against defendants selling non-FDA approved drugs.

A federal jury convicted Lexington, Massachusetts psychiatrist Rahim Shafa of money laundering, illegally importing merchandise, and receiving and delivering misbranded drugs. Between 2008 and 2018, Shafa treated patients suffering from alcohol and opioid dependence with non-FDA approved pellets and injections of naltrexone and disulfiram he smuggled from a Hong Kong supplier. Some of those patients testified at the trial about complications they suffered from these treatments. Shafa only faces a year in prison and a $1,000 fine for importing unapproved drugs, but the maximum sentences for  money laundering and illegal importation add up to 40 years, and fines could be as high as $500,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced in May.

Arizona-based Centera Bioscience, dba Nootropics Depot, and its CEO Paul Eftang were sentenced to probation and to pay $2.4 million in forfeitures for distributing misbranded drugs. Between April 2017 and September 2021 Centera Bioscience made $35 million by illegally importing large quantities of tianeptine, adrafinil, phenibut, and racetams from China. The company advertised online, including on Reddit, and sold the non-FDA approved drugs to buyers across the country.

Novo Nordisk reached settlements with two of the twelve spas, clinics and compounding pharmacies it is suing for using Ozempic, Rybelsus and Wegovy trademarks to promote compounded drugs purporting to contain semaglutide. The company disclosed that it had tested samples of compounded semaglutide and found versions that were as much as 33% impure in December.

Naltrexone implants pictured in an article from The Sydney Morning Herald in 2013.  

Domestic News

An Ohio man died after taking tianeptine last November. Two Texans will spend decades in prison for making and selling fentanyl-laced pills.

An Ohio family is warning others after a 37-year-old Ohio man fell into a coma and died after taking a tianeptine supplement. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued several warnings about tianeptine, which is also known as “gas station heroin.” It has been banned in several U.S. states.

PSM tracks public reports of pill press seizures. To see the most recent data with individual incidents, visit our Illegal PIll Press page.

Corpus Christi, Texas residents Chad Williams Wesevich and his brother Jamie Wesevich received sentences of 35 years and 25 years, respectively, for making and selling fentanyl-laced pills disguised as prescription pain medications between 2017 and 2021. Law enforcement seized $350,000 in cryptocurrency and cash, tens of thousands of counterfeit hydrocodone pills, two pill presses, pill dies and other drug making tools over the course of the investigation.

Navarro County Sheriff's deputies found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, including a pill press, during a routine traffic stop in Corsicana, Texas. Pill press seizures were also reported in Stanleytown, Virginia and Weirton, West Virginia.

Both the Virginia and Tennessee legislatures are considering laws that would increase penalties for criminal use of pill presses.