Gary D. Osborn and his corporation, ApothéCure Inc., pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to two misdemeanor criminal violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The pleas are in connection with ApothéCure’s interstate shipment of two lots of misbranded colchicine injectable solution that led to the deaths of three people in the Pacific Northwest.
ApothéCure, which is located in Dallas, is a compounding pharmacy. Compounding Pharmacies create particular pharmaceutical products to fit the unique needs of patients by combining appropriate ingredients.
Colchicine is used to prevent gout attacks (sudden, severe pain in one or more joints caused by abnormally high levels of a substance called uric acid in the blood) in adults, and to relieve the pain of gout attacks when they occur.
The government’s charges were based on ApothéCure’s February 2007 shipment of 72 vials of compounded colchicine to a now-defunct medical center in Portland, Ore. On March 19, 2007, a patient in Yakima, Wash., who received colchicine from this shipment, died after receiving the infusion. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was multiple organ failure and acute colchicine toxicity.
On March 30, 2007, colchicine from ApothéCure was administered to two other patients who were suffering from back pain. Within hours of receiving the colchicine injections, both patients became seriously ill, were taken to local hospitals, and died shortly thereafter. The medical examiner in Oregon determined colchicine toxicity to be the cause of death for both patients.
FDA testing of vials selected from the lethal shipment revealed that some of the vials were super-potent, containing 640 percent of the level of colchicine declared on the label. Other vials were determined to be sub-potent, and contained less than 62 percent of the declared levels on the labels.
“This plea shows that the Department of Justice will enforce the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act against responsible corporate officers of companies that fail to control the quality of their products,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. “The drugs mixed by Mr. Osborn’s company were not merely misbranded, but lethal. Drug makers of all sizes, from large corporations to small compounding pharmacies, have a duty to ensure their products are safe.”
Sentencing is scheduled for July 27, 2012.
This case was investigated by Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, which referred this matter to the Justice Department. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys John Claud and Patrick Runkle of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.