Feds get guilty plea in Canadian counterfeit internet drug sales case

In a case dating back to 2010, U.S. prosecutors said defendant Kris Thorkelson of Manitoba, Canada, admitted to illegal sales of misbranded and counterfeit prescription drugs in the U.S.

Thorkelson, along with companies associated with him that include Canada Drugs, Rockley Ventures, and River East Supplies, were sentenced by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen to forfeit $29 million in proceeds from the illegal scheme, pay a $5 million fine, and serve five years probation. Thorkelson was also ordered pay a $250,000 fine and serve five years of probation with the first six months in home confinement.

“By circumventing the FDA approval process, Thorkelson and the Canada Drugs companies jeopardized the health and safety of Americans,” U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme, said in a statement. “But as this case shows, American providers and consumers need to beware when purchasing drugs on the internet.”

Thorkelson's Canada Drugs Group of Cos., which operated CanadaDrugs.com, sold to U.S. physicians, two batches of counterfeit Avastin, Roche's colon cancer drug. The FDA issued a warning that consumers had gotten their hands on some fake Adderall through an Internet pharmacy.

Canada Drugs, through its subsidiary River East Supplies, was also charged with distributing counterfeit cancer drugs Avastin and Altuzan in the U.S. Vials of those drugs were tested and it was found no active ingredients were in the compounds. In 2012, Thorkelson and others at Canada Drugs were aware of the problem but Thorkelson denied “selling or offering Avastin,” even while the company attempted to recall the drugs.

Thorkelson failed to notify the FDA or other authorities in the U.S. about the counterfeit cancer drugs containing no active ingredient that had been shipped to providers in the U.S.