NV: Las Vegas Poker Player Unmasked as Ringleader of $230M Counterfeit Drug Scheme

In a shocking revelation, high-profile Las Vegas poker player, Lazaro Hernandez, was uncovered as the orchestrator of a $230 million counterfeit prescription medication operation, specifically targeting essential HIV drugs. This clandestine operation involved the manipulation of pill bottles for HIV treatments, such as Biktarvy and Descovy, and reselling them to pharmacies at reduced prices.

Counterfeit Medications: A Brewing Storm

The counterfeit medications sometimes contained Seroquel, an antipsychotic drug, rather than the prescribed HIV medication, posing a substantial risk to patient health. This operation is part of a larger, more insidious problem of drug counterfeiting. The World Health Organization estimates the global annual value of this illicit trade to be a staggering $431 billion. In the United States alone, the number of counterfeiting incidents saw a 17% increase in 2022, with a total of 2,121 reported cases.

Big Pharma Strikes Back

Pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer of Biktarvy and Descovy, filed a lawsuit in July 2021 against 161 defendants. The list includes pharmacies and wholesale distributors alleged to be complicit in the counterfeiting operation. In a parallel move, Johnson & Johnson has also filed a lawsuit over counterfeiting of its HIV medication, Symtuza.

Victims of Counterfeiting

Counterfeiting is not just an economic offence; it is a dire threat to patient safety. A patient was incapacitated after unknowingly consuming Seroquel from a bottle labelled as containing Biktarvy. The lawsuits serve as a grim reminder of the ongoing battle against prescription drug diversion and counterfeiting, which victimizes vulnerable populations who rely on these life-saving medications.

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National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators Federal Tax ID: 52-1660752 / DUNS Number: 073539913

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