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Canadian pharmacy to be fined millions for illegal imports

AP  |  Helena (US) 

An that bills itself as Canada's largest is expected to be fined USD 34 million today for importing drugs and other into the United States, a sentence that one group called too light for such a heinous crime.

Drugs has filled millions of prescriptions by offering itself as a safe alternative for patients to save money on expensive drugs, and its founder, Kristian Thorkelson, has been hailed as an industry pioneer for starting the company in 2001.

But US prosecutors say Drugs' business model is based entirely on illegally importing unapproved and misbranded drugs not just from Canada, but from all over the world.

The company has made at least USD 78 million through illegal imports, including two that were counterfeit versions of the drugs Avastin and Altuzan that had no active ingredient, prosecutors said.

After more than two years of struggling to get the international company to appear in to face the felony charges, Drugs and Thorkelson, struck a plea deal with prosecutors late last year.

Today, a in Missoula, Montana, will decide whether to approve federal prosecutors' recommended sentences that include USD 29 million forfeited, USD 5 million in fines and five years' probation for Drugs.

The recommendation for Thorkelson is six months' house arrest, five years' probation and a USD 250,000 fine.

Drugs also will permanently cease the sale of all unapproved, misbranded and counterfeit drugs and will surrender all of the domain names for the myriad websites it used to sell the drugs, under the deal.

US has the final say in the sentences, and an group is urging the to impose harsher penalties to deter future crimes.

"Counterfeiting oncology medications is a nearly untraceable and heinous care crime," Shabbir Imber Safdar, of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, wrote in a letter to the "You put saline in a bottle, and when the patient takes it, there is no evidence in the patient of the crime."

Safdar said Thorkelson should receive prison time and that Thorkelson's and Drugs' pharmacy licenses should be surrendered. The group also wants Drugs to give up all of it internet domain names, including ones not named in the plea deal, to prevent the company from continuing to sell

"We feel that being a part of a scheme to sell Americans drugs while you profit from it should be sufficient grounds for a long-term revocation of a pharmacist's license," Safdar wrote.

Neither Safdar nor two of Drugs' and Thorkelson's attorneys returned messages seeking comment yesterday.

Federal prosecutors wrote in court documents that the recommended sentence is appropriate.

"The believes that the above-referenced sentence in an appropriate one reflecting the seriousness of Thorkelson's conduct, the need for just punishment and adequate deterrence to future criminal conduct," and Special wrote.

The case is being handled in the US state of Montana, where Drugs bought another company for its drug inventory and customer list when it was expanding in 2009.

Drugs continued to deposit money into that company's from doctors' purchase of the illegally imported drugs before the proceeds were shipped to offshore accounts in the Caribbean, prosecutors said. The company and two overseas subsidiaries agreed to plead guilty to introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, and the subsidiaries also agreed to plead guilty to selling counterfeit drugs.

Thorkelson agreed to plead guilty to knowing about and concealing a felony crime.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, April 13 2018. 15:10 IST
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