SAN FRANCISCO – On June 18, 2018 the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced charges against Vi Thieu Binh, 67, for selling and holding for sale, prescription drugs without a license. Binh is also charged with selling and holding for sale counterfeit, misbranded, adulterated, and unapproved drugs.
Binh’s arrest follows an investigation by the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Public Health, as well as federal investigators.
According to court records, Binh owns Hue An Company (also known as Ng Hing Kee, Inc.), a San Francisco retail establishment that purportedly sells herbs and ginseng. Binh became the subject of an investigation following an incident in November 2014, when an elderly man allegedly ingested Anti Rheuma capsules purchased from an unlicensed seller in Oakland and was hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit at San Leandro Hospital.
Anti Rheuma capsules are nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs that are intended to suppress pain, reduce inflammation, minimize joint deterioration, and treat rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. They are not approved by the FDA and are illegal. The capsules, which the individual had purchased at a retail store in Oakland, listed ingredients that required a prescription.
According to court records, investigators also received information that Hue An Company was also a separate potential seller of Anti Rheuma capsules. A joint investigation by state and federal agencies found that on multiple dates between December 2016 and October 2017, Binh sold and held for sale a variety of drugs, including Anti Rheuma capsules and those containing prescription ingredients, at Hue An Company. The Anti Rheuma capsules sold by Binh were found to contain active ingredients that were removed from the U.S. market because they had been deemed to be unsafe or ineffective by the FDA. Many of the drugs sold or held for sale were also counterfeit, misbranded, adulterated, or unapproved by the FDA.
In January 2018, a search warrant was executed at Hue An Company, uncovering nearly 600 products believed to be prescription-only, counterfeit, misbranded, adulterated, or unapproved drugs.
“Selling counterfeit, falsely labeled, improperly mixed, or new and unapproved drugs is illegal and buying and using them is dangerous,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “This case demonstrates the need for food and drug investigators to protect the public.”
If a seller does not ask for a prescription, he/she is likely operating illegally. A licensed professional will require a prescription from a doctor before he/she can complete the sale.
"Regulations on who can sell prescription drugs exist to protect consumers," said District Attorney George Gascón. "In this case, someone became seriously ill as a result of acquiring drugs from an unlicensed seller. If you know of retail establishments unlawfully selling prescription drugs, please contact the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Public Health."