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Southern California doctor charged with bringing misbranded foreign cancer drugs into the US

LOS ANGELES - A Los Angeles-area doctor who specialized in treating cancer patients was arrested this morning by federal authorities after being charged with introducing foreign misbranded drugs into interstate commerce - drugs that according to some of his employees were sometimes watered down when they were administered to his patients.

Vinod Chandrashekm Patwardhan, 58, who resides in Claremont, Calif., was arrested this morning at his medical office in the nearby community of Upland. Patwardhan is named in a criminal complaint unsealed this morning that alleges one count of delivering misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.

Patwardhan's arrest follows an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The case was referred to these agencies by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The investigation into Patwardhan began in April after one of his employees contacted authorities and said the doctor was bringing drugs from India and Honduras into the United States for use on his patients, according to the affidavit in support of the complaint. During the subsequent investigation, several employees said they saw foreign-made drugs that they knew were not approved for use in the United States and that the drugs were brought into the office in gym bags and shopping bags. The complaint also states that some of his employees were aware that Patwardhan would administer less than the full dosage of these drugs to some patients when he injected the drugs into saline bags, which were then used to administer the drugs to his patients via an intravenous drip.

Investigators searched Patwardhan's office last month, recovering more than two dozen vials of unapproved drugs, according to the complaint. During an interview on that day, Patwardhan said he had personally been travelling to India for "quite some time" to bring unapproved drugs into the United States and that he had another person bring unapproved drugs into the United States from Honduras.

Patwardhan is expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside. The charge of delivering misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead carries a statutory maximum penalty of three years in federal prison.