Baltazar was a gynecologist, not an endocrinologist. He said he knew “a little bit” about HGH and testosterone, which are often prescribed in tandem, but he relied largely on clinic salespeople to set doses.
The pharmacist coached the doctor: Keep detailed medical charts documenting that patients are taking the drug for at least some kind of health problem, just in case the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ever came calling.
“Because somebody questions you, you want to be able to say, `Here, look at his chart. You know, he’s got fatigue. He’s got, you know, a decreased sex drive. He’s got increased body fat. He has some — some slight depression, probably.’ Whatever his signs and symptoms are.”
None of these conditions is a legal reason to prescribe HGH. But the pharmacist said that most investigators will be satisfied and move on “because there’s guys that are just selling stuff basically like a boiler room.”
Del Toro was arrested along with 12 other people in September 2011 on charges that they distributed steroids and human growth hormone to people who had no legitimate medical need. He is awaiting trial. His lawyer declined to comment. Baltazar was sentenced to six months in prison for involvement in steroid distribution schemes.
At the height of the crackdown in 2007, the federal government went after Pfizer in a case involving anti-aging clinics. The company paid $34.7 million in fines to settle the case _ 11 percent of the company’s annual revenue from the drug.
Blockbuster U.S. sales of HGH represent the latest frustration in 25 years of government efforts to control abuse of the growth drug made infamous by sports scandals.
First marketed in 1985 for children with stunted growth, HGH was soon misappropriated by adults intent on exploiting its modest muscle- and bone-building qualities. Congress limited HGH distribution to the handful of rare conditions in an extraordinary 1990 law, overriding the generally unrestricted right of doctors to prescribe medicines as they see fit.
Despite the law, illicit HGH spread around the sports world in the 1990s, making deep inroads into bodybuilding, college athletics, and professional leagues from baseball to cycling. The even larger banned market among older adults has flourished more recently.
For years, cheaper supplies from unauthorized foreign factories, particularly in China, fed the market via direct and Internet sales that sidestepped the medical establishment.
Though such shipments were banned under other law, the imports initially attracted little attention because they were usually labeled as raw pharmaceutical ingredients, which compounding pharmacies are allowed to bring into the country.
That flow began to be curtailed in 2006, when U.S. drug authorities stepped up efforts to block shipments at the border.
A handful of pharmacies across the country were hit with criminal charges over their handling of HGH. Federal prosecutors charged China’s biggest HGH maker, GeneScience Pharmaceutical, with illegally distributing its Jintropin brand in the U.S. The company’s CEO pleaded guilty in 2010.View Entire Story
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