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  5. Arizona Company and CEO Sentenced for Illegal Distribution of Tianeptine and Other Drugs and Ordered to Forfeit $2.4 Million
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Arizona Company and CEO Sentenced for Illegal Distribution of Tianeptine and Other Drugs and Ordered to Forfeit $2.4 Million

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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney's Office
District of New Hampshire

Monday, February 5, 2024

CONCORD – An Arizona company and CEO were sentenced today in federal court in Concord for distributing drugs into interstate commerce, including tianeptine, that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young announces.

Centera Bioscience, d/b/a Nootropics Depot, was sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Talesha Saint-Marc to three years of probation. The company’s CEO, Paul Eftang, 38, was
sentenced to one year of probation. The defendants have also paid a $2.4 million forfeiture and surrendered all drugs seized by the FDA and Customs and Border Protection. On October 30, 2023, Centera and Eftang pleaded guilty to the introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.

“The defendants sold Tianeptine and other drugs that were not approved by the FDA,” U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young said. “The FDA has a strict drug approval process to protect
consumers from products that are unsafe or ineffective. Eftang and Centera Bioscience made substantial effort to sell misbranded drugs, which has consequences under federal law. This Office will continue to prosecute those who risk consumer’s health and safety.”

“Unapproved drugs present a serious health risk to those who buy and use them. The drugs can contain unknown ingredients and are manufactured under unknown conditions,” said Special Agent in Charge Fernando McMillian, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ New York Field Office. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who attempt to traffic in dangerous and unapproved drugs including tianeptine and other chemicals trafficked by this organization.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to keeping the U.S. Mail, its employees, and customers safe. When the U.S. Mail is used to transport unapproved drugs such
as Tianeptine, it is taken very seriously,” said Ketty Larco-Ward, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division. “We will continue to conduct investigations, alongside our law enforcement partners, that seek prosecution of those who compromise the safety of the American public.”

Tianeptine, adrafinil, phenibut, and racetams are pharmaceutical drugs not approved for use in the United States. Racetams include piracetam, aniracetam, coluracetam, and phenylpiracetam. The defendants imported approximately $7.4 million worth of raw material for these drugs from China between April 2017 and September 2021. The defendants earned approximately $35 million from selling these drugs during that same time period. The defendants sold the drugs across the United States, and at one point used Mexican intermediaries to ship the products.

During this investigation, Customs detained several shipments of adrafinil and racetams addressed to Centera Bioscience or one of its subsidiaries. These shipments included 20 barrels of phenibut hydrochloride from Shanghai Norky Pharmaceutical, 40 barrels of piracetam from Shanghai Soyoung Biotechnology, and 20 barrels of phenibut hydrochloride from Qingdao Sincess. The company’s Strategic Director, Paul Sheard, represented to Customs that the shipments were supposed to be used for laboratory analysis and research only, and were not intended for human consumption. The customs paperwork also incorrectly labeled the imports.

The defendants also maintained an active online presence to advertise tianeptine, phenibut, and racetams, including a sub-forum on the website Reddit. Eftang himself posted regularly on Reddit under the username “MisterYouAreSoDumb.”

The Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations and U.S. Postal Inspection Service led the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander S. Chen and Geoffrey W.R. Ward, and FDA Special Counsel Sarah Hawkins prosecuted the case.


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