Va. drug company founder gets 3 years in prison

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A northern Virginia-based drug company was ordered Friday to pay $3.4 million and its founder sentenced to three years in prison for distributing thousands of units of misbranded drugs to doctors across the U.S.

Gallant Pharma International Inc. and its co-owner, 39-year-old Syed "Farhan" Huda of Arlington, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Alexandria to illegal importation and introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.

According to court documents, the company made $3.4 million in profits between 2009 and 2013 by illegally importing chemotherapy and cosmetic surgery drugs, in violation of the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory scheme.

Prosecutors say the drugs were shipped from countries including Turkey and Switzerland, in ways that compromised their safety, including a lack of temperature controls for drugs that need to be kept cool to maintain their efficacy.

Huda's lawyer, Mark Schamel, argued for a lighter sentence, arguing in part that the drugs received by doctors and patients were never "adulterated or problematic in any way." He also noted in court papers that the crime occurred in the context of a regulatory environment where U.S. patients are forced to pay much higher drug prices than the rest of the world.

"A more cynical person might argue that the crime that was perpetrated here was against the citizens of the United States who are paying two and three times the price for the same pharmaceuticals Canadians, EU patients and others across the world are paying," Schamel wrote in court papers.

Twelve people have been convicted in connection with the prosecution.