SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The owner and CEO of a Utah pharmacy has been accused of mislabeling large amounts of malaria drugs imported from China that outgoing President Donald Trump incorrectly touted last year as a “miracle” treatment for the coronavirus.
Dan Richards, the operator of Meds In Motion, was charged Monday with a misdemeanor for receiving large amounts of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine from an unregistered manufacturer in China that were incorrectly labeled as Boswellia serrata extract, an herbal supplement, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked permission to use the drug to treat the coronavirus last year after Trump’s comments, saying the evidence shows the drug is unlikely to be effective against the virus.
Boswellia serrata extract, also known as Indian frankincense, is used to treat inflammation, arthritis, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease, the Tribune reported.
Richards’ attorney, Greg Skordas, said his client was trying to help procure as much of the product as possible because at the time it seemed like a promising treatment for the coronavirus. The fact that he was charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony reflects discussions over the last several months between Richards and prosecutors about what he was trying to do, Skordas said.
“This wasn’t someone trying to import illegal drugs,” Skordas said. “There were very prominent state leaders who were very anxious to get as much of this as possible, and he was trying to help.”
Richards had secured an $800,000 no-bid state contract for hydroxychloroquine in late March. Utah lawmakers had set aside another $8 million for a second purchase from Richards before it was canceled because of concerns with the drug. Richards later returned the $800,000 from the first deal, the Tribune reported in April.
Utah Department of Health spokesman Tom Hudachko declined to comment about the lawsuit and allegations.
The pharmaceutical executive had been diligently promoting the drug to state officials as he was buying up vast quantities of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine powder that he planned to mix with zinc and encapsulate, the Tribune reported. In a March 19 email, Richards told state officials he had acquired more than 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds) of the drug, enough to treat about 400,000 state residents.
Richards allegedly obtained the falsely labeled package about three weeks later. It is not currently clear whether the 800 kilogram (1,764 pound) purchase he described to officials included the more than 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) of hydroxychloroquine and 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of chloroquine that federal prosecutors say Richards received in a mislabeled shipment from China.
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