Feds extract guilty plea from Turkish man accused of smuggling counterfeit Avastin

One of two men from Turkey that federal authorities accused of smuggling counterfeit cancer drugs to the U.S. labeled as gifts or documents has admitted he is guilty.

Ozkan Semizoglu, who worked for a Turkish drug wholesaler, has pleaded guilty in Missouri to two charges and is slated to be sentenced Oct. 28. He faces up to 20 years in jail. His alleged partner in crime, Sabahaddin Akman, has pleaded not guilty and has a trial set in September, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Indictments against the two men, both of Istanbul, said they had sold vials of drugs, some of them labeled as Altuzan, the Turkish version of Roche's ($RHHBY) Avastin, which is not approved for use in the U.S. The drugs were sold to a wholesaler and then to oncology practices in the U.S. The newspaper, citing the plea agreement, says that some of it turned out to be counterfeit. Two cancer patients in Arizona in 2011 had "immediate and bad reactions" to this Altuzan, according to court documents.

The charges stem from a case launched in 2012 after counterfeit versions of Avastin were found in the U.S. Federal authorities earlier got a conviction against James Newcomb of La Jolla, CA, who pleaded guilty to charges that he shipped foreign versions of prescription drugs to doctors around the U.S. With help from companies in Canada and the U.K., Newcomb offered the drugs to U.S. doctors at discounts of 14% to 60% off their usual wholesale prices, telling them they could save "40 cents on every dollar spent on oncology medications."

- read the Wall Street Journal story (sub. req.)