Counterfeiter with Chinese connections is busted

An illegal immigrant from Pakistan has earned 13 months in prison, $140,000 in fines and post-jail deportation for masterminding a counterfeit erectile dysfunction drug business in Houston, TX. The fines are restitution to Pfizer ($PFE) and Eli Lilly ($LLY). Pfizer's Viagra and Lilly's Cialis brands were the subjects of the knockoff business.

Irfan Qadir is described by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as a "major distributor," according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. He used U.S. Post Office boxes to import and distribute the fakes, which originated in China, according to ICE.

Qadir's 13-month sentence highlights the minor penalties imposed on drug counterfeiters, on par with those for counterfeit consumer goods. Most drugmakers believe the penalties should be much stiffer to reflect the health hazard posed by drug fakes. Congress last month proposed the Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act, which would boost the maximum prison sentence to 20 years for first-time individual offenders, with a maximum fine of $4 million.

Qadir received nearly 8,000 of the Chinese pills in the 6 months prior to his May arrest, according to the report. He sold the pills for about half the price of the brand-name drugs, the story said.

The Chronicle cites Pfizer anti-counterfeiting chief Bill Donnelly, who said counterfeiters "usually want to make sure [the knockoffs] work well enough to keep users coming back." Many contain too much API to achieve that goal, the story said.

Pfizer has found counterfeit versions of its drugs containing wallboard and the paint used on highways, according to the story.

- here's the story

Special Report: Top Counterfeit Drugs Report