The Partnership for Safe Medicines
Weekly UpdateSeptember 13, 2010
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Unapproved Cancer Drug Sold Online Found to be Starch and Sugar

A Canadian man was sentenced to 33 months in prison by an Arizona judge after pleading guilty to distributing counterfeit drugs earlier this year.

Hazim Gaber had pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud in connection to selling a white powder he claimed was the experimental cancer drug dichloroacetate (DCA) to at least 65 patients from a now defunct illegal online pharmacy,, according to the Edmonton Journal.

Research conducted in 2007 at the University of Alberta showed that DCA shrunk breast, lung and brain tumors in lab rats. However, the drug has yet to get approval from health authorities. That did not stop Gaber from selling the counterfeit drugs, claiming that he was the only legal supplier of DCA and that he was being supported by the university.

Testing revealed that the powder that Gaber sold was simply a counterfeit drug, made of starch, dextrin, dextrose or lactose. Gaber charged $110.27, plus shipping and handling, for the fake medication. According to the plea agreement, he sent the counterfeit drugs, along with phony certificates of analysis and instructions on how to take the powder, to people in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Holland and Belgium.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said in a statement that Gaber's actions constituted a "new low." "Hazim Gaber went from selling false hope to cancer patients to now spending 33 months in a U.S. prison," the statement said. "Criminals often seek to exploit the most vulnerable of victims - but offering fake, unapproved medication to cancer patients reaches a new low.

The case was investigated by the Phoenix FBI Cyber Squad with help from local authorities and the Edmonton police, who were first alerted to the counterfeit drugs in 2007 when a local woman told them that the medication she purchased from Gaber came in a spice bottle that was dissimilar to the packaging of DCA she had previously used. A number of similar complaints followed and Gaber was eventually arrested in Frankfurt, Germany, in July 2009. In addition to the 33-month sentence, U.S. District Court Judge James Teilborg imposed a $128,800 in fines and restitution.

Top News

Resistance to Counterfeit Drug Smuggling Continues to Grow

The Catholic church joined many governments in their concern over counterfeit drugs, issuing a statement that it is in "the best interest of all concerned that smuggling of counterfeit drugs be fought against". According to many officials and researchers, the pope's concern is justified and Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute points out that an estimated that counterfeits kill at least 100,000 people a year, mostly in the poor world. The large number of counterfeit-drug related deaths is in part related to the criminals' ability to infiltrate the legitimate supply chain. Many hope new methods of combating the problem, such as cell phone technology, will detract counterfeiters from the drug market. ("Poison Pills," The Economist, September 2, 2010; Story here)

Anti-Counterfeiting Technology Uses Radio Waves to Find Fake Drugs

Lund University Researchers from Sweden and the U.K. recently developed an anti-counterfeiting technology that they hope can combat the problem of fake drugs, particularly in Africa, according to The researchers have created a prototype of the device. It resembles a small suitcase and users place the medication in its packaging in the device, which tells them whether the drugs are authentic or not. It is intended to be used by pharmacists and customs agents. (Partnership for Safe Medicines, September 8, 2010; Link here)

World News

US: Prominent Wisconsin Pharmacist Arrested on Counterfeit Drug Importation Charges

A Wisconsin pharmacist was recently arrested on charges that she imported and sold millions of pills of phony erectile dysfunction medication and other counterfeit drugs. Marla Ahlgrimm, who owns a number of businesses in Madison, Wisconsin, was arrested when she walked into her office while authorities were executing a search warrant, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Ahlgrimm is accused of selling counterfeit drugs along with Balbir Bhogal of Middleton, Wisconsin. Both were charged in the federal court for the Eastern District of New York. (Partnership for Safe Medicines, September 8, 2010; Link here)

Zanzibar: Authorities Seize Stockpiles of Counterfeit Drugs

The Zanzibar Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Board and the Interpol branch in Tanzania recently joined forces to seize and impound counterfeit drugs during a special operation targeting various drug outlets. Hundreds of cartons of counterfeit drugs which pose a risk to consumer health were impounded. About 50 outlets, including 24 pharmacies and 26 drug-dispensing shops were inspected in parts of the Zanzibar archipelago. Among the impounded drugs included medicine for malaria, said the board registrar, Dr Burhani Othman Simai. Simai also stated that the crime was just as serious as money laundering and not only poses a public health risk but causes real economic harm. ("Board impounds counterfeit drugs," The Citizen, September 2, 2010; Story here)


PSM's Inaugural 2010 Interchange

When: Friday, Oct 8, 2010
Where: Washington, D.C

PSM InterchangeThe Partnership for Safe Medicines invites you to save the date for an intimate conference bringing together patient groups, providers, pharmaceutical company quality experts, enforcement personnel, policymakers, regulatory agency experts and other interested parties to discuss key issues around counterfeit drugs and other unsafe medicines. Register by August 1st to take advantage of reduced registration fees.
Register Now
About the Partnership for Safe Medicines
The Partnership for Safe Medicines is a group of organizations and individuals that have policies, procedures, or programs to protect consumers from counterfeit or contraband medicines. For more information, please visit