Orange County District Attorney’s Office Files Charges Against Herbal Drug Company Founders
The Orange County District Attorney's office on May 29 filed criminal charges against three founders of an herbal drug company, alleging that they conspired to alter a variety of herbal pills with prescription drugs and falsely promoted the pills as cancer treatments, the Los Angeles Times reports. John Chen, Sophia Chen and Allan Wang -- who founded Brea-based BotanicLab, which is no longer in business -- face seven felony and seven misdemeanor counts and up to 20 years in prison if convicted on all charges. The defendants have not yet entered pleas in the case; neither they nor prosecuting attorneys could be reached for comment, the Times reports.
The charges represent the "latest developments in a case that has fueled concern about the effectiveness of regulating herbal products," according to the Times. Former customers who had used two products to treat cancer filed a class-action lawsuit after the drugs were found to be contaminated last year (Hanley, Los Angeles Times, 6/13). The Department of Health Services in February 2002 announced that its investigators had found the blood-thinning drug Coumadin, known generically as warfarin, and the anxiety drug Xanax, known generically as alprazolam, in herbal supplements sold by BotanicLab. At that time, company officials urged consumers to immediately stop taking one of the supplements but said that four rounds of testing since 1998 had shown no contamination (California Healthline, 2/11/02). Despite the legal challenges, Assembly Members Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks) and Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton) continue to support a bill (AB 421) that would allow the continued sale of PC SPES -- one of the supplements sold by BotanicLab -- to treat prostate cancer. The bill has passed the Assembly and is now in the Senate (Los Angeles Times, 6/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.