JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Counterfeit prescription drugs turned up at South Mississippi stores targeted in a year long investigation by federal, state and local authorities. Thursday, more than 100 agents across the state served approximately 30 federal search warrants in search of illegal pharmaceuticals.
"We are just getting started," said Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. "Counterfeiters are on notice that we mean business."
Between February 2010 and November 2010, numerous undercover purchases of illegal pharmaceuticals were made from convenience type businesses across the state. Among the products purchased were various prescription strength pain killers, antibiotics, birth control, supplements and the like, not approved for sale in the United States.
"The smuggling of substandard, tainted or counterfeit products violates U.S. laws and regulations and threatens public health and safety as well as the economic well being of the U.S.," said, Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office in New Orleans. "Our ability to work together across the federal government and with agencies around the world is a strong and appropriate response to a growing international threat."
ICE regularly carries out operations to target, interdict, and investigate substandard, tainted, and counterfeit products being imported into the United States that pose a health and safety risk to consumers.
In addition to pharmaceuticals, other dangerous products include:
- Counterfeit toothpaste containing anti-freeze;
- Counterfeit drugs containing too little, too much, or none of the active ingredient at all;
- Tainted animal food containing melamine, a product contained in plastics, cleaning products, countertops, glues, inks and fertilizers, that led to the death or injury of pets in U.S. households;
- Counterfeit circuit breakers that could explode, cause fires, or otherwise fail;
- Contaminated food products containing antibiotics that have been banned in food by the FDA.
"Unapproved, uncleared, or misbranded products pose a clear and present danger to the public health," said David W. Bourne, Special Agent in Charge of FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations Miami Field Office. "We will continue to join with our law enforcement counterparts to aggressively pursue those who place consumers at risk for their own financial gain."
Those arrested Thursday face both federal and state charges.
"This is a key example of how Operation Knock Out Knock-Offs is working in Mississippi," said Attorney General Hood. "By partnering with federal and local officials, we can help protect consumers from dangerous fakes."