FDA breaks up international scam putting bogus FDA labels on drugs


The FDA has put another operator out of business that was falsely selling foreign-made drugs as if they were FDA-approved, but this one put a new twist on the practice. He bought drugs manufactured in India and elsewhere, doctored them to appear as if they were made in the U.S. and FDA-approved, then sold them to unsuspecting clients in other countries instead of the U.S.

Arif Diwan, 60, owner of Cranston, RI-based Lifescreen, has pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of conspiracy to engage in false labeling of preretail medical products and money laundering as well as a separate charge of immigration fraud. He is slated for sentencing in September.

According to the FDA, the scam was carried out between 2012 and 2015, when Diwan bought large quantities of drugs, including cancer treatments, manufactured by Indian drugmaker Sara International. The FDA said he had the drugs shipped to the Belgium home of co-conspirator Bart DeRidder. They said DeRidder allegedly repackaged them with bogus FDA labels and made it appear that they had been manufactured at a plant in Puerto Rico that didn’t exist. DeRidder faces charges in Belgium. At least some of the drugs were sold in the United Arab Emirates.

“FDA is recognized around the globe for ensuring that drugs are safe and effective. Criminal rings that falsify drugs’ origins to give the appearance of FDA approval put the public’s health at risk,” said George Karavetsos, director of FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

The FDA has been hard at work putting these scammers out of business. Earlier this month, the FDA reported that the leader of a similar drug operation that had sold $17 million worth of foreign-made cancer meds and other drugs in the U.S. had been sentenced to 5 years in prison. William Scully, 47, one of the owners of Medical Device King and other companies, was also ordered to forfeit nearly $900,000. The Commack, NY, man was convicted last fall of 64 felonies for violations of the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act and mail and wire fraud.  

- read the release

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