Officials nab high tech, low tech counterfeiters

Combine starch, dextrin and dextrose into a consistent white powder; pour into clean spice bottle. Prepare phony certificate of analysis and directions for use. Sell via the Internet as scarce experimental cancer drug.

That's the recipe Hazim Gaber followed. He charged patients $110.27 plus shipping and handling for the fake sodium dichloroacetate medication. It's a low-overhead operation, but maybe too low. Gaber was undone by the spice bottle, reported by several sharp cancer sufferers who were taking the fake, says the Partnership for Safe Medicines. The patients recognized the bottle as different from the container of the authentic drug. An Arizona judge has given Gaber almost three years in prison.

But Gaber, despite being so low as to target cancer patients seeking a scarce treatment, appears as just a small-time hood next to Chinese businessman Kevin Xu. Surveillance tapes now available show how the savvy counterfeiter planned to get his fakes through customs, how he could replicate authentic packaging and how he could supply as many as 200,000 boxes at a time, reports Dan Rather. The video is part of "Dan Rather Reports: The Mysterious Case of Kevin Xu," which aired Tuesday on HDNet. Xu's inventory included lifestyle drugs like Viagra as well as treatments for Alzheimer's, heart disease and cancer. He boasts of selling fakes in the legitimate supply chain in Europe.

Xu is now serving six and a half years for conspiring to traffic in counterfeit drugs. He symbolizes a big difficulty of securing the global drug supply, says Rather.

The report details how big-pharma security agents came across Xu at a chemical trade fair and noted the breadth of products he claimed he could supply. They bought some, alerted government officials, and then helped engineer an international sting operation.

"Xu was unlike any other person we had encountered," says an Immigration and Customs agent in the report. "Just by the array of products it was clear that he had access to manufacturing and distribution capabilities."

- here's the Gaber article
- see the Rather column