Indian telemarketer of foreign-made drugs goes to federal prison

The FDA has for years been chasing after illegal online pharmacies that sell unapproved, sometimes counterfeit, drugs to consumers. In a new twist on that scheme, the FDA brought a case against a man who worked for an Indian company that was telemarketing directly to consumers prescription drugs made outside the U.S.

According to the agency, Naresh Kumar Chintala, 33, has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to dispense prescription drugs without a prescription. He was apprehended in Jacksonville, FL, late last year when he traveled to the U.S. on business and pleaded guilty in February.

Citing court documents, the FDA said that Chintala worked for an unnamed Indian company in which telemarketers told people they contacted that they were selling FDA-approved drugs that were manufactured in the U.S., when neither claim was true. They sold prescription drugs directly to consumers without a prescription and then shipped them from India, in parcels that the FDA said had labels that disguised what they were.

The Justice Department, assisted by the FDA, has prosecuted a series of cases against companies and people involved in selling foreign-made drugs, some of which have turned out to be counterfeits. In recent months, it has gotten millions of dollars in settlements from doctors for knowingly buying unapproved, foreign-made cancer drugs in an effort to cut their costs. Some doctors have gone to prison. Last year, authorities got convictions from a dozen people associated with Arlington, VA-based Gallant Pharma, that was buying unapproved drugs from a supplier in Pakistan and selling them in the U.S.

In late 2012, the FDA warned 350 physician practices that foreign-made versions of Roche's ($RHHBY) Avastin had come into the U.S. through a Canadian online pharmacy. Several months later, they said that the drug being offered through blast faxes was foreign-made, but the labeling had been faked to make it appear it was made for the U.S. market.

- here's the release