If the illegally imported medicine does you harm, the criminals may never be punished

In 2017, health policy experts Camille Guerra and Tim Mackey published the results of an analysis of 100 U.S. prosecutions associated with illegal online pharmacies. They concluded that "current legal tools and regulatory policies do not effectively deter this highly profitable criminal activity. When foreign counterfeiters get caught selling counterfeits to Americans, they get light jail sentences or no jail time at all.

5 counterfeit drug smugglers with easy sentences:

1. RxNorth/Mediplan Health Consulting Inc.

Canadian pharmacist Andrew Strempler sold Americans prescription drugs—some of them counterfeit—that he falsely marketed as Canadian, and avoided an outstanding U.S. warrant by living in Panama. Eventually, Canada asked that he be brought back to respond to it. Once in the U.S., he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison, but only spent two and a half years behind bars. He continues to sell prescription drugs today.

2. Gallant Pharma International

Gallant Pharma International posed as a legitimate drug wholesaler as they sold smuggled counterfeit and misbranded chemotherapy and cosmetic injectables to doctors, medical practices, and hospitals across the U.S. Indicted by the Justice Department in 2013, 12 members of the conspiracy received a total of 108 months in prison and more than $8 million in fines and forfeitures, but two more individuals have not served any time—they are fugitives believed to be in Canada.

3. CanadaDrugs.com

CanadaDrugs.com, associated companies, and individuals were indicted in 2014 for selling American medical practices $78 million in non-FDA approved drugs, some of which were counterfeit. The case, which did not become public until 2015, ended in 2018 plea deals that led to $34 million in fines and forfeitures. CEO Kris Thorkelson agreed to a six-month house arrest followed by four and a half years probation and a small fine. Six additional individuals had all charges against them dismissed.

4. JNS Impex

JNS Impex, a Pakistani drug wholesaler, was charged with illegally exporting misbranded and unapproved drugs in 2012, but the U.S. was unable to extradite its co-owners, Junaid and Shehzad Qadir. Eventually, Junaid was picked up while traveling to Germany, where he fought extradition for 17 and a half months. Four years after the original indictment, Junaid Qadir was convicted and sentenced. He only spent four months more in a U.S. prison before being deported back to Pakistan. His brother Shehzad cannot be extradited and is still listed as the owner of JNS Impex.

5. TC Medical Group/SB Medical

Despite the companies pleading guilty to orchestrating a multi-year conspiracy to smuggle misbranded prescription pharmaceuticals, including counterfeit Botox, into the U.S., not a single person involved with TC Medical Group/SB Medical spent any time in prison. The companies paid $74 million in fines and forfeitures but the individuals who falsified customs forms, repackaged medications to make them look as if they had been FDA-approved or improperly stored sensitive cold-chain injectable medications walked away with no punishment.