One tactic of U.S. authorities in fighting the onslaught of illegally imported and sometimes counterfeit drugs is to prosecute doctors who bought them knowing they came from outside the legitimate supply chain. A Missouri doctor whose practice, The Youthful Body, bought a foreign version of Allergan's ($AGN) Botox to get a deal is now going to jail for just that.
The 41-year-old Dr. Erick Falconer was sentenced to 5 months in prison and 5 months of home confinement for lying to federal agents about his purchases of Botox that arrived in packages with labels in a foreign language. According to the FDA, Falconer made 50 purchases of the drug after getting a faxed ad with an 800 telephone number and a Gmail account for contacting the seller. The Botox was offered at a steep discount, selling for $354.99 a vial, compared to the $525 it usually costs. When agents questioned Falconer in February 2013, he told them he had made only three purchases of the foreign-made drugs.
The FDA and other federal authorities have stepped up efforts since counterfeits of Roche's ($RHHBY) Avastin were first uncovered in the U.S. in 2012, but fakes continue to be found slipping into the drug supply. Two men from Turkey were indicted last month on charges related to that case. In December, the co-owner of Arlington, VA-based Gallant Pharma International pleaded guilty to a host of charges related to buying and selling misbranded and unapproved drugs to doctors in the U.S., including a foreign version of Botox.
The feds point out that doctors who buy foreign-made drugs from outside the approved supply chain put their patients at risk. The drugs could be fakes, as some cancer meds have turned out to be, and cold-chain drugs may not have been safely stored and shipped. The penalties when caught can be severe: In July 2013, a California oncologist and his practice paid $3.4 million in fines for buying drugs from a source in Canada that was not approved by the FDA. The La Jolla, CA-physician admitted giving his patients foreign versions of nearly a dozen different cancer meds, including a version of Roche's Rituxan manufactured for use in Turkey.
- here's the release