State warns pharmacies 'potentially' dangerous drugs could be on shelves

The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy is taking action following two federal indictments alleging an Eagan prescription-drug wholesaler unlawfully sold prescription drugs to pharmacies and other drug wholesalers around the country.

The indictments, one out of the Southern District of Ohio and the other from the Northern District of California, say Minnesota Independent Cooperative, better known as MIC, over the course of six years, sold nearly $400 million worth of drugs bought from illegal or unlicensed suppliers. According to the indictment, one of the sources used by MIC bought drugs from "street sources, cab drivers, pharmacies and other drug diverters."

"Diverted drugs include drugs that are misbranded, adulterated, improperly handled, counterfeit, or stolen," Anne Porter, assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Ohio, told Fox 9.

On Monday afternoon, in response to the indictments, Cody Wiberg, the executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, sent an email to all of the state's licensed pharmacies and drug wholesalers, telling them "any pharmacy or drug wholesaler that has purchased drugs from MIC should take those allegations into consideration before distributing or dispensing any products obtained from MIC. They should consider notifying customers to whom they sold drugs that were obtained from MIC."

On Tuesday morning, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy plans to e-mail the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy's message to pharmacies and drug wholesalers across the country.

"It's very unusual to have something of this caliber," Wiberg told Fox 9. "We're encouraging the other state boards of pharmacy to supply information to their licensees and registrants," said Wiberg.

The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy suspended the license for B&Y Wholesalers, a drug wholesaler that the indictments allege was a front for MIC to obtain drugs from unlawful sources. In February, the owner of B&Y Wholesalers pleaded guilty to a felony charge related to the allegations in the indictments. The license for MIC remained active as of Monday night as board members looked for a statutory mechanism to suspend MIC's license. A license allows a company to sell prescription drugs and bring them into he state.

Investigators tell Fox 9 that most of MIC's customers are smaller pharmacies — not the large chains. In fact, Target, CVS, and SuperValu, all tell Fox 9 that their pharmacies have not purchased drugs from MIC.

"If any patient is worried that they might have purchased a product that MIC handled, they should ask their pharmacist, ‘Did you purchase at any time from this outfit I've heard about? And pharmacies are going to be able to tell them, yes or no, we did or we didn't,'" Wiberg said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office expects David Miller, the owner of MIC, to surrender in San Francisco on Tuesday, but Miller's attorney would not confirm that with Fox 9.

In all, 33 people from around the country, including MIC's owner and vice president of operations, have been charged in the conspiracy.

Minnesota Board of Pharmacy statement

"This e-mail is being sent to all licensed pharmacies, pharmacists and drug wholesalers for whom the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy (Board) has an e-mail address."

The Board has reviewed two federal indictments that were handed down last week against a drug wholesaler named Minnesota Independent Cooperative (MIC). That company is licensed by our Board and has a facility in Eagan, MN. Two other drug wholesalers, located in Puerto Rico, were also mentioned in these indictments – FMC Distributors and B&Y Wholesalers, Inc. At this point the Board can neither confirm nor deny that it has been investigating MIC. We can confirm that we have been aware of the federal investigation into MIC for quite some time – and that we provided documents to federal investigators at their request.

The federal indictments allege that MIC was at the center of a massive scheme that involved the sale of potentially adulterated and misbranded drugs to pharmacies and other drug wholesalers. According to the federal allegations, drugs were purchased from illegal sources, false pedigree paperwork was given to purchasers and drugs were deliberately misbranded. If the allegations in the federal indictment are true, the quality of any drug purchased from MIC would be suspect. Consequently, any pharmacy or drug wholesaler that has purchased drugs from MIC should take those allegations into consideration before distributing or dispensing any products obtained from MIC. They should also consider notifying customers to whom they sold drugs that were obtained from MIC.

The owner of B&Y Wholesalers, Inc. pleaded guilty in February to a federal felony charge related to the indictments mentioned above. That being the case, the Board had grounds to issue an Order of Automatic Suspension against B&Y Drug Wholesalers – and such an order was issued this afternoon. The Board is considering what action that it can take, under Minnesota Statutes, against MIC and FMC Distributors.
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