As authorities continue to probe irregularities in the HIV drug supply chain, a Florida man has been arrested for his alleged role in a nationwide scheme to defraud the FDA and illegally distribute more than $230 million in adulterated medicines. No, not these Florida men, or these alleged Floridian fraudsters. It’s easy to confuse the cases as the trend of drug schemes in the Sunshine State rolls on.
Under this alleged scheme, Lazaro Hernandez of Miami got his hands on large quantities of HIV medications and then created false labels to make the drugs look like they had been legally acquired, the Department of Justice (DOJ) says. Hernandez and his co-conspirators then created wholesale drug distribution companies in Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York to sell the adulterated drugs at “steep discounts” to other co-conspirators who ran distributors in Mississippi, Maryland and New York.
Those companies then resold the fraudulent medicines to pharmacies across the country where they were billed to health insurers, including Medicare, and dispensed, leading unsuspected patients to receive adulterated and misbranded HIV medications, the DOJ says.
Between 2019 and 2021, Hernandez and co-conspirators were allegedly paid more than $230 million for the wrongfully acquired drugs. Hernandez allegedly laundered millions of dollars through several corporations in Miami, according to authorities.
He’s been charged with charges including conspiracy and money laundering. If convicted on all counts, Hernandez faces a maximum penalty of more than 100 years in prison.
The DOJ has kept a closer eye on fraudulent drugs since late last year, when it opened an investigation of counterfeit HIV drugs targeting meds made by Gilead Sciences, GSK, Johnson & Johnson and other pharmas. Since then, counterfeit schemes have been turning up left and right.