19 Indicted In AIDS Drugs Fraud

Mon. July 21, 2003 12:00 AM by 365gay.com

Miami, Florida - In what is being described as possibly the biggest scam involving phony AIDS drugs in US history, 19 people have been indicted on racketeering charges.

The 19 are accused of selling fake and diluted AIDS and cancer drugs to pharmaceutical wholesalers throughout Florida.

The scam involved drugs such as Neupogen, which is used to treat cancer and HIV, Gammagard used for HIV patients, and Epogen which is used to treat cancer and AIDS.

Prosecutors say that in one instance, labels on Epogen were altered to show that it was 20 times stronger than its actual potency so it could be sold for a higher price.

"It's hard to imagine a more heinous crime perpetrated upon an individual who's counting on what they believe to be a legitimate drug to save their lives," Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist told a press conference.

Crist said the suspects had earned tens of millions of dollars in the scheme. He added that he expects to lay further charges as the investigation expands

The grand jury issued a 47-page report earlier this year calling for stricter controls on drug wholesalers. It also backed tougher penalties for violators - including the death penalty if a consumer dies as a result of ingesting an adulterated drug.

The report said drugs to boost the immune system of cancer and HIV patients have become a favorite of counterfeiters.

In one case cited in the report, criminals realized a $28 million profit from a shipment of 11,000 boxes of counterfeit AIDS drugs Epogen and Procrit.

by Fidel Ortega
365Gay.com Newscenter
Miami Bureau
©365Gay.com® 2003

This article originally appeared on 365gay.com. Republished with permission.