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Firm must pay fine, cooperate with ongoing investigations

9/19/2007 - MLB NBA NFL + more

BOSTON -- A company that distributed human growth hormone to
"well known athletes and entertainers" has agreed to pay a $10.5
million penalty and cooperate with ongoing law enforcement
investigations, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Under the terms of the agreement, Specialty Distribution
Services Inc., a subsidiary of Express Scripts Inc., will not face
prosecution for three years if it fully complies with terms of the
agreement.

Steve Littlejohn, a spokesman for St. Louis-based Express
Scripts, said the company fully cooperated in the federal
investigation and has already implemented procedures to prevent the
illegal distribution of human growth hormone.

"Express Scripts does not condone the use of human growth
hormone for anti-aging, cosmetic or performance enhancement
purposes," the company said in a news release.

Specialty Distribution Services "knowingly distributed human
growth hormone to certain well known athletes and entertainers,
including a well known athlete in Massachusetts, knowing that their
intended use was athletic performance enhancement, cosmetic or
anti-aging," in violation of federal law, the U.S. attorney's
office said in a news release.

Prosecutors did not mention any names of those believed to have
bought HGH from the firm.

The drug in question was approved by the Food and Drug
Administration only for specific purposes, including treatment of
children with growth failure due to inadequate growth hormones,
prosecutors said.

"The public should also realize that human growth hormone has
not been shown to be safe and effective for athletic, cosmetic or
anti-aging uses, and it must not be promoted or distributed for
such uses," U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said in a statement.

The company illegally shipped the drugs five times between
October 2000 and December 2005, according to court documents
prosecutors filed with the agreement.

Human growth hormone was sent to a "well known professional
athlete in Massachusetts" in January 2002 and again in October
2003 following a doctor's request, the documents said.

Drugs were sent to an entertainer in March 2002 at the request
of a doctor who said he was filling the prescription at the
patient's request and that the drugs were "not medically
necessary," according to the documents. The doctor identified his
practice as an "anti-aging clinic."

The company shipped the drugs to a 6-foot-5, 276-pound
"entertainer/athlete" in January 2003 after a doctor said it was
"medically necessary," even though the dosage was typically used
for performance enhancement, the documents said.

Specialty Distribution Services had pharmacists and other
employees who should have recognized the prescriptions as
illegitimate, prosecutors said. Under the agreement, it will better
train employees to recognize fake prescriptions.

Human growth hormone is produced naturally by the body
throughout life, but can cause complications when taken in
excessive amounts, said Dr. Linn Goldberg, professor of medicine at
Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

"When you are a fully grown adult who takes HGH in excess, it
thickens your bones and skin, puts you at risk for diabetes and
other conditions, and causes fluid retention, joint pain and nerve
damage," he said.

Goldberg said he is not surprised that entertainers and athletes
are using it, because it can cost $100 per day. Prosecutors said
HGH treatment can cost up to $20,000 per year.

"Athletes are looking for the fountain of youth, and the
fountain of youth is not to be found in a bottle," he said.