Doc coughs up $2M for using unapproved Avastin on his cancer patients

A U.S. oncologist who thought he was getting a great deal on drugs that were almost the same thing as Avastin has found they will cost him an extra $2 million and a federal misdemeanor conviction.

Dr. Mohamed Basel Aswad, an oncologist in a small town in New Mexico, was among a number of U.S. physicians who bought Altuzan from a Canadian company that obtained it overseas and then sold it to physician practices at deep discounts. Altuzan is a version of Roche's ($RHHBY) cancer med Avastin that's made for the market in Turkey but not approved for sale in the U.S.

Dr. Aswad admitted that the drugs he bought from 2010 to 2012 came with Turkish inserts and that he used them on his unwitting patients, then charged federal programs the full price, according to an FDA announcement. The doctor gets three years of probation but will pay $1.3 million in restitution to the federal Medicare and military Tricare programs, as well as forfeit $750,000, which was "part of his net criminal proceeds," the FDA said.

The plea agreement stems from a series of prosecutions undertaken by the FDA and the Justice Department after fake and misbranded cancer drugs made it into the U.S. supply chain in 2012. Last month, Turkish citizen Ozkan Semizoglu was sentenced to 27 months in prison for smuggling misbranded and counterfeit cancer drugs to the U.S. Semizoglu worked for a Turkish drug wholesaler and helped it get vials of Altuzan and other drugs into the U.S. The drugs were sold to a wholesaler and then to oncology practices in the U.S.

- here's the FDA announcement