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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Deming Oncologist Pleads Guilty to Introducing “Misbranded” Drugs Into Interstate Commerce

Plea Agreement Requires Dr.  Aswad to Serve Three Years of Probation,
Pay $1,298,543.00 in Restitution, and Forfeit $750,000

ALBUQUERQUE – Mohamed Basel Aswad, M.D., entered a guilty plea this afternoon in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to a misdemeanor information charging him with the unlawful introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.  The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez and Special Agent in Charge Catherine Hermsen of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Dr. Aswad will be sentenced to three years of probation, and will be required to pay $1,298,543.00 in restitution to Medicare and Tricare, the victims of his criminal conduct.  Dr. Aswad also will be required to forfeit $750,000.00, an amount representing part of his net criminal proceeds, to the United States.

Pursuant to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), the FDA regulates the manufacture, labeling and distribution of prescription drugs shipped or received in interstate and foreign commerce as part of its mission to protect the health and safety of the American public.  The FDCA requires businesses, whether domestic or foreign, who manufacture prescription drugs for sale and use in the United States to register with the FDA and to cooperate with the FDA.  Under the FDCA, a prescription drug is “misbranded” if it is manufactured in an establishment not registered with the FDA for commercial distribution within the United States.  A drug also is “misbranded” if the labeling bears inadequate directions for use.

According to court filings, Dr. Aswad is a board certified oncologist who has maintained a medical practice in Deming, N.M., since 2007, where he treats cancer patients.  As part of his medical practice, Dr. Aswad purchased all prescription drugs, including chemotherapy drugs, administered to his patients.  Between July 2010 and April 2012, Dr. Aswad ordered prescription cancer drugs from a Canadian company that shipped “misbranded” unapproved prescription drugs to Dr. Aswad, and Dr. Aswad administered the misbranded drugs to his patients.  Altuzan, a chemotherapy prescription drug, is one of the “misbranded” drugs Dr. Aswad ordered from the Canadian company.

In entering his guilty plea, Dr. Aswad admitted that on March 7, 2012, he ordered Altuzan from a Canadian company and the drug was shipped to his medical practice in Deming.  Dr. Aswad acknowledged that the Altuzan did not bear adequate directions for us because the packaging inserts were in Turkish.  Dr. Aswad acknowledged that the Altuzan was “misbranded” and came from a foreign company not registered by the FDA.  Dr. Aswad also acknowledged that, when the FDA executed a search warrant at his clinic on April 10, 2012, they seized the Altuzan as well as other similarly “misbranded” chemotherapy drugs that he possessed at his medical practice.  Dr. Aswad admitted that his sale of “misbranded” prescription drugs amounted to approximately $1,298,543 in proceeds.

“Serious consequences can result when those entrusted with caring for cancer patients put personal gain ahead of all other considerations,” said Special Agent in Charge Catherine Hermsen, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations. “Our office will continue to work to bring to justice all those who violate federal laws that promote public health.”

            U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez commended the investigative work of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark A. Saltman of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office, who is prosecuting the case.
Updated January 26, 2015