TrialSite News is one of the few “industry” digital media to highlight the treacherous 42-year old Sami Anwar; the ‘Goodfellas’ meets ‘Catch me if you Can’ principal investigator that billed sponsors and CROs out of millions, not to mention endangering many patients along the way.
Now the Tri-City Herald has another write up covering the crooked path of Anwar’s two Richland, Washington “clinical sites,” including Mid-Columbia Research and Zain Research—virtually front operations for legitimate human clinical research trial sites.
TrialSite News Coverage
TrialSite News read through court documents and identified some of the sponsors that were tricked, including Pfizer and Braeburn Pharmaceuticals—the latter depending on CRO Medpace for signing up this “efficient” investigative site.
Given the implications of this crime—that many patients were signed up for legitimate clinical trials and that all of the standard legal, regulatory, and ethical procedures were thrown out the window shocks us that more coverage hasn’t occurred. Could it be this incident raises some topic not to be discussed?
A Diverse Array of Studies
Anwar’s studies covered everything from diabetes and heart disease to pediatric illness, smoking cessation, and pain studies. Anwar was recently convicted of 47 felony counts after the three-week trial, reports Kristin M. Kraemer of the Tri-City Herald.
A majority of the crimes came down to wire fraud and mail fraud, including conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud as well as the illegal securing of drugs through fraud and furnishing false information to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Anwar didn’t testify, and Mid-Columbia was convicted on 47 counts while Zain Research was sentenced on one county, each of conspiracy for wire and mail fraud, while the business was acquitted of the other 45 accounts, reported Ms. Kraemer.
A Fake Doctor in the U.S. from Pakistan
Although trained as a doctor in his native Pakistan, Anwar had no physician’s license in the United States. Hence he utilized trickery, fraud, and deceit while establishing these clinical research site operations. He used to identify theft to forge the names of legitimate physicians while frequently intimidated witnesses and employees to keep the sham going as long as possible. Some employee whistleblowers finally brought him down.
‘Goodfellas’ Meets ‘Catch me if You Can.’
In addition to intimidating employees and witnesses, Anwar stocked numerous former employees, following them to their homes and threatening them, reports Ms. Kraemer. He slashed some of their tires and even made false reports to the police, the state Department of Health, and the FDA all in an attempt to prevent them from cooperating with the authorities as investigations mounted. Anwar is a real sociopath bordering narcissistic tendencies that fleeced sophisticated global corporations out of $5.6 million while putting patients in some cases at grave risk.
Preparing for Sentencing
In lock-up, he is not allowed on bail as he fleed the country and is deemed a danger to the public. The U.S. Marshals have him in custody until his March 11, 2020 sentencing before Senior Judge Ed Shea. Anwar faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for each fraud count.
U.S. Attorney Comment
U.S. Attorney William Hyslop, serving the Eastern District of Washington noted, “Every day, Americans rely on the data from clinical research trials to keep us safe from deadly diseases and dangerous side effects” and continued “Injecting fraudulent and corrupt data into the system is an egregious breach of the trust and faith we all place in those who perform these vitally important trials.”
Hyslop continued, “Based on the evidence presented at trial and the jury’s unanimous verdict, Mr. Anwar profited from his blatant disregard for patient safety by running his fraudulent enterprise through fear and intimidation.”
TrialSite News is presently researching additional court documents and identifying potential witnesses for a more in-depth analysis of how this whole nightmare lasted so long. We are also inquiring into the actual studies involved with these fraudulent research centers to understand how the real trials were impacted. Based on our lengthy experience serving drug developers as vendors, we believe that there could have been ways to avoid this horrible outcome. Yes, Anwar was a dedicated and committed crime, but high-quality monitoring can surely detect patterns that warrant an additional investigation into specific sites. More on that to come.