Two US men get jail terms for trafficking fake ED drugs

Two men in the US who each trafficked more than 10,000 counterfeit erectile dysfunction pills have been sentenced to federal prison and ordered to pay fines to the pharma companies whose drugs they faked.

Martez Alando Gurley, 41, and Victor Lamar Coates, 47, were sentenced following earlier convictions of conspiring to traffic counterfeit Viagra and Cialis pills and introducing adulterated and misbranded prescription drugs onto the market. Both men had previously pleaded guilty to the charges.

Gurley was sentenced to almost seven years (75 months) in prison and ordered to pay $410,508 in restitution to the erectile dysfunction drugmakers Pfizer and Eli Lilly and Company, while Coates received a sentence of 46 months and a restitution fine of $314,565. Both defendants must also serve three years of supervised release following completion of their prison terms.

The men had trafficked the fake tablets from their homes via internet businesses, selling the drugs to individuals across the country and in the Houston, Texas, area for further distribution to unsuspecting customers, some of whom complained the drugs didn't work.

Gurley, from Napa, California, was found to have distributed almost 13,000 counterfeit Viagra and Cialis pills, selling bottles for between $40 and $50, while Philadelphia-based Coates sold at least 10,288 fake tablets.

The men had sourced and illegally imported the counterfeits from China from an individual Gurley knew by the name of "Alice", paying just $10 a bottle. Other pills were sourced from an individual within the US.

According to court documents, the operation had started in 2012, and Gurley was caught when he sold 188 bottles to an undercover federal agent.

During the men's re-arraignment hearing in June last year, special agent in charge Brian Moskowitz of Homeland Security Investigations in Houston, said: "The introduction of counterfeit drugs into the market should be of concern to every consumer of these products. The best defence against unknowingly buying these untested items of unknown origin is to purchase them from legitimate authorised sources."

The appearance of the fake pills trafficked by Gurley and Coates mimicked the genuine drugs, while the packaging closely resembled the registered trademarks of Lilly and Pfizer.

But tests found the drugs were anything but authentic. Tests revealed that the Viagra pills contained less than the 100mg of the drug's active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) sildenafil citrate, while the counterfeit Cialis was found to have small quantities of the Viagra API and none of the Cialis active ingredient tadalafil. Some of the fake Viagra tablets were also found to contain the unrelated compound 2-MBT (2-mercaptobenzothiazole), which is an organosulphur compound used in the processing of rubber and has been identified as a carcinogen.

On sentencing, US District Judge David Hittner asked the defendants whether they realised the potential to harm from distributing fake drugs and chastised them for masquerading the products as real.

Special agent in charge Spencer Morrison of the US Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations' Kansas City Field Office said: "When criminals introduce prescription drugs into the US that are not FDA-approved, they jeopardise the public's health. Our office will continue to pursue and bring to justice those whose quest for profits places the public's health at risk through the distribution of illegitimate drugs."

Earlier this year, a 72-year-old man from Florida was jailed for 21 months and ordered to pay $926,466 for conspiracy to smuggle misbranded and counterfeit drugs, including erectile dysfunction drugs, into the US.

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