INVENTOR OF ZICAM COLD REMEDY ARRESTED FOR ILLEGALLY IMPORTING AND DISTRIBUTING OF UNAPPROVED ‘BIRD FLU’ DRUG
LOS ANGELES – Charles B. Hensley, the inventor of the zinc-based Zicam cold remedy, is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon after being arrested yesterday on federal charges of illegally importing and distributing an unapproved herbal product that he claimed prevented and treated avian influenza.
Hensley, 57, of Redondo Beach, was arrested yesterday afternoon on charges of illegally bringing a product called Vira 38 into the United States and distributing the product to customers around the nation. Hensley was charged in a 12-count indictment that was returned on May 20 by a federal grand jury.
The indictment accused Hensley of four misdemeanor counts of introducing an unapproved new drug into interstate commerce, four misdemeanor counts of introduction of a misbranded drug into interstate commerce, and four felony counts of illegally importing an unapproved drug into the United States.
Hensley was arrested at his residence by members of the Southern California Import Task Force – which is made up of agents with the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations and investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department – and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Hensley operated a company – PRB Pharmaceuticals, Inc. – that sought to sell Vira 38 as an influenza medication in Hong Kong. But when marketing efforts in Hong Kong failed, in part, because of the lack of clinical data that demonstrated the product’s efficacy, Hensley promoted Vira 38 as medication to fight the H5N1 virus, which cause an influenza commonly called bird flu. According to a press release issued by the company: “VIRA 38, PRB Pharmaceuticals’ over-the-counter broad spectrum anti-viral medication, is known for its effectiveness in treating and preventing influenza. VIRA 38 has recently been shown to contain compounds that inhibit the bird flu (H5N1) virus.”
While Hensley touted Vira 38 as a cure for bird flu, the indictment alleges that the product had not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The indictment further alleges that the importation of Vira 38 from Hong Kong for distribution to domestic customers was an illegal importation of an unapproved drug and unlawful dispensation of a prescription drug without a prescription.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If convicted of all charges in the indictment, Hensley faces a statutory maximum sentence of 28 years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by the Southern California Import Task Force and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Release No. 11-078
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