SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The owner of an herbal medicine store in San Francisco’s Chinatown has been charged with selling and holding prescription drugs for sale without a license, prosecutors announced Monday.
Vi Thieu Binh, 67, owns Hue An Company, also known as Ng Hing Kee, Inc., selling herbs and ginseng. However, he became the subject of an investigation after in 2014 a 73-year-old man who ingested Anti Rheuma capsules bought from an unlicensed seller in Oakland was hospitalized, according to prosecutors.
Anti Rheuma capsules, used to treat inflammation and arthritis, are not approved by the Federal Drug Administration and are illegal. The capsules allegedly had ingredients listed that required a prescription, Gascon’s office said.
During the investigation, the FDA’s Criminal Investigations Office learned that Binh may have been supplying the capsules. Prosecutors allege that between December 2016 and October 2017 Binh sold and held for sale a variety of drugs, including Anti Rheuma capsules and other drugs containing prescription-only ingredients.
Prosecutors said the capsules had an ingredient that was removed from the U.S. market. In addition, Binh sold or held other drugs that were counterfeit, misbranded, adulterated or unapproved by the FDA, prosecutors said.
In January 2018, agents served a search warrant at Hue An Company, located at 776 Jackson St., and found nearly 600 products believed to be prescription-only, counterfeit, misbranded, adulterated or unapproved drugs.
In addition to the prescription drug charge, Binh has also been charged with selling and holding for sale counterfeit, misbranded, adulterated and unapproved drugs, according to prosecutors.
“Regulations on who can sell prescription drugs exist to protect consumers,” Gascon said in a statement. “In this case, someone became seriously ill as a result of acquiring drugs from an unlicensed seller.”
According to Gascon’s office, consumers should take precautions when buying prescription medication and verify that the seller is a licensed professional with their license prominently displayed. In California, only individuals licensed with the California State Board of Pharmacy, such as pharmacists and doctors, are allowed to hold and dispense prescription drugs.
Consumers should also make sure that the products they buy are valid, especially if the seller is secretive about the ingredients or source; makes claims that are too good to be true; produces the product from somewhere not accessible to customers; has the product stored in an unlabeled bottle; or sells single pills.
Furthermore, Gascon’s office said, consumers should make sure that the label on the medication’s container has not been removed or altered and that there’s a USP or Consumer Lab Label on it. The drug manufacturer’s address should be printed and legible in addition to the drug’s registration numbers.
Additionally, if the medication is in pill form, consumers should examine it to make sure that they are consistent in color, texture and shape.
Anyone who believes they may have been sold counterfeit or illegal drugs is advised to contact the California Department of Public Health drug hotline at (800) 495-3232 or their primary health provider.
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