Recently unsealed court documents in the US reveal the identities of the ringleaders of a nationwide counterfeit HIV medications scheme.
Gilead Sciences described Lazaro Roberto Hernandez and Armando Herrera as the ‘kingpins’ of the scheme.
“Gilead’s ongoing investigation revealed that these two kingpins directed the initial sale of the counterfeits through suppliers created solely to sell counterfeit medications.”
Prosecutors allege that Hernandez and co-conspirators established licensed wholesale drug distribution companies in multiple US states between 2019 and 2021. The companies then sold counterfeit HIV drugs to pharmacies across the US. The criminal enterprise offered the drugs to pharmacies at a steep discount.
Hernandez and his co-conspirators allegedly bought used drug bottles from the homeless and other disadvantaged people. They then filled the bottles with either pills illegally acquired from Gilead or counterfeit drugs sometimes containing potentially dangerous ingredients.
The counterfeiters resealed the bottles before selling them to pharmacies through their network of drug distribution companies.
In a statement, Gilead described the counterfeit drugs as potentially life-threatening.
“Counterfeit and tampered medicines can result in serious and or life-threatening health risks.
“They are not equivalent in quality, safety and/or efficacy to genuine medicines.
“They often do not contain the correct medicine or amount of active ingredient and may also contain impurities. Additionally, counterfeit or tampered medicines may be produced in unsafe manufacturing conditions and travel through insecure supply chains.”
Gilead launched an investigation after discovering knock-off versions of two of the company’s medications in US pharmacies. One of the medications, Descovy, is marketed as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV-negative people from contracting HIV.
Gilead stated that investigators identified the defendants by matching the locations of their disposable burner phones with flight records.
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