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Fake US FDA inspector targeting Indian drugmakers in latest scam

By Dan Stanton , 20-Feb-2014
Last updated on 20-Feb-2014 at 12:34 GMT

Fraudsters who try to extort money by impersonating regulators are an ongoing problem, the US FDA says, after the Gujarat FDCA warns drugmakers about a new scam.

Joint Commisioner for Drugs at the Gujarat, India, Food and Drugs Control Administration (FDCA), Y. D. Chauhan, directed in-Pharmatechnologist.com to the warning posted on its website showing a photo of a man who has visited manufacturing facilities in the region posing as a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspector and demanding cash.

Chauhan did not respond to further questions but did confirm one local company Muktesh Healthcare had been targeted by the fraudster last month.

Wanted for impersonating a US FDA inspector

This appears to be the first reported case involving a face-to-face meeting with an FDA impersonator and in India, though FDA spokesperson Stephen king told us the agency has “had these issues for some time now,” citing several other examples of attempted scams using the FDA’s credentials, albeit by telephone or email

In 2011, the US agency issued a warning to the public of an international extortion scams by FDA impersonators. In that case the criminals targeted people who had bought drugs online and, after identifying themselves as FDA special agents, informed them that purchasing drugs over the Internet or the telephone is illegal and demanded payment ‘fines’ of up to $250,000 (€182,000).

Three years earlier, a similar scam emerged with victims being contacted and enticed to buy discounted medicines from the Dominican Republic and, once paid for, being telephoned by a fraudulent ‘FDA special agent’ demanding several thousand dollars due to avoid incarceration for buying drugs illegally.

“Impersonating an FDA official is a violation of federal law," said the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs Dara Corrigan back in 2011. “FDA special agents and other law enforcement officials are not authorized to impose or collect criminal fines. Only a court can take such action.”

As for swindlers targeting industry, in 2012 the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and Healthcare (EDQM) warned manufacturers who held Certificates of Sustainability (CEP) of a fraudulent attempt to obtain money from an organisation called the Directory of Certificates of Sustainability (DCEP).

News of this latest scam comes as the FDA looks to increase the number of (real) inspectors in India , and the return of Commissioner Margaret Hamburg from an eight day tour of India.

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