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Deming doctor pleads guilty to selling foreign prescription drugs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Deming oncologist will be sentenced to three years of probation and must pay back more than $1 million for bringing unapproved cancer drugs from Canada that had packaging inserts written in Turkish.
Mohamed Basel Aswad pleaded guilty on Tuesday in federal court in Las Cruces to a misdemeanor charge of bringing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
In addition to the probation sentence, Aswad must pay $1.3 million in restitution to Medicare and Tricare, the victims of his operation. He must also pay $750,000 to the United States. That amount represents part of his net proceeds from the criminal activity, the release said.
Aswad, a board certified oncologist, has had a practice since 2007 in Deming where he treated cancer patients, according to court filings.
Between July 2010 and April 2012 ordered prescription drugs from a Canadian company that shipped the medications to him. He administered the medications, including the chemotherapy drug Altuzan to his patients. Aswad acknowledged that the Altuzan came from a foreign company not registered with the Food and Drug Administration and didn’t have adequate instructions, because it came with instructions inside the packaging that were written in Turkish, the release said.
The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act regulates the manufacture, labeling and distribution of prescription drugs shipped or received in interstate and foreign commerce. Manufacturers must be registered with the FDA. A prescription drug is considered misbranded if it is produced in an establishment that is not registered with the FDA and if the labeling has inadequate directions for use.
The FDA executed a search warrant on Aswad’s clinic in April 2012 and seized the Altuzan as well as other similarly misbranded drugs. Aswad admitted that his sale of the misbranded prescription amounted to roughly $1.3 million, the release said.