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US charges Canadian company with money laundering, smuggling

US charges Canadian company with money laundering, smuggling

HELENA: U.S. government prosecutors are accusing an online Canadian pharmacy of selling $78 million worth of unapproved, mislabelled and counterfeit drugs to doctors across the United States.

An online Canadian pharmacy sold $78 million worth of unapproved, mislabeled and, in two cases, counterfeit cancer drugs to doctors across the United States over three years, U.S. government prosecutors said.

An indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Montana charges Canada Drugs and its affiliates in the United Kingdom and Barbados with smuggling, money laundering and conspiracy. Thirteen of the 14 companies and individuals named as defendants are located outside the U.S. and have not appeared to face the charges, leading prosecutors to undertake a possibly lengthy extradition process.

The 14-year-old Winnipeg company’s website describes itself as offering low prices on medicine from Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. A company spokesman and its attorney did not return calls Monday.

The medicines named in the criminal indictment are mainly clinical drugs that treat cancer or the effects of chemotherapy. Nearly all of the drugs are legal in the U.S. when sold by FDA-approved manufacturers and marketers.

Health Canada suspended the company’s establishment licence in June, 2014 over what it called “significant concerns” about its manufacturing practices.

Canada Drugs’ affiliates bought their non-FDA authorized or mislabeled drugs abroad, and shipped them to the United States to sell to physicians at lower prices compared to the U.S. equivalents, according to the indictment. The money would go to the company’s Barbados affiliate, which would then send the profits to Canada, the indictment said.

Prosecutors said sales went on until 2012, when the FDA began investigating the company’s involvement in distributing counterfeit versions of the cancer drug Avastin. The company’s U.K. affiliate, River East Supplies, had bought another supplier’s inventory of Avastin that included some counterfeits. At least one of the counterfeits was sold to a U.S. physician, prosecutors said.