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A Case of Déjà Vu

March 25, 2010 – 2:07 pm

I thought this story sounded familiar!

Last week the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida reported that defendants “Jose Castillo of Ft. Lauderdale, Federico M. Fermin of Miami Beach, and Terri L. DeCubas of Pembroke Pines were indicted on charges of mail fraud, distribution of prescription drugs without a license, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit those offenses. In addition, Ms. DeCubas was charged with making a false statement to an agent of the Food and Drug Administration.”

It sounds familiar because I remembered the setting and one defendant’s name from the eye-opening book, Dangerous Doses, by Katherine Eban. (If you haven’t read this book, I suggest you find one up this weekend.)

According to the indictment, “from 2002 through 2005, the defendants, operating from Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, solicited and accepted wholesale prescription drug orders from pharmacies. The defendants then purchased prescription drugs from unlicensed sources; at least some of the drugs were obtained through street diversion. The defendants, who did not have a license to distribute prescription drugs from Florida, shipped the drugs from Florida to a licensed wholesale distributor in Texas. The Texas distributor re-shipped the drugs to the defendants’ customers, as if the drugs were new and had traveled exclusively through licensed channels. During the course of this operation, the defendants grossed more than $13 million.”

I asked Eban about this case, and she offered this statement:

“Jose Castillo was a top-flight diverter who the Horsemen caught red-handed in 2002 with a filthy unregistered warehouse full of diverted drugs.  As a result, his company, Jemco Medical International, lost its state license and filed for bankruptcy. Learning his lesson full well—that you can make millions and face few consequences—Castillo apparently kept on doing what he did best.  It seems that law enforcement has really gotten wise to this scheme.  He now appears to be facing real time.  At the very least, I suspect that he will have to sell off his trademark white Mercedes in order to pay some legal bills.”

If you think that this story is a little dated and we are turning the corner on such threats, consider the number of truck and warehouse heists involving pharmaceuticals and other healthcare goods this year alone. FDA has an entire Web page dedicated to theft.

Stolen pharmaceuticals have ended back up in the supply chain, evidenced by this report on Novo Nordisk’s stolen Levemir.

I also came across this frightening story searching Google about prescription drugs being altered for some unknown scheme.

FDA is scheduled to tell us this month what its plan is for tracking pharmaceutical items.

Maybe tomorrow?

Daphne Allen

P. S. Disclaimer from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida: “An Indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

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