French Citizen Charged In Scheme To Sell Weight Loss Drug

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A French citizen is facing a charge in New Jersey that he made false statements to try and gain the rights to sell a weight loss drug.

Alain Bouaziz was arrested Tuesday night at Newark Liberty International Airport as he prepared to leave the the country. He was scheduled to make an initial court appearance by videoconference on Wednesday.

Documents released Wednesday by the U.S. attorney’s office in Newark allege the 68-year-old Bouaziz, who resides in the United Arab Emirates, sent forged documents and made false statements to the Food and Drug Administration that claimed his company had the right to sell the drug Sanorex.

Bouaziz represented himself to be the chief operating officer of Secaucus, New Jersey-based Hexim Pharmaceuticals, a company formerly known as Alkopharma USA, and falsely stated that Hexim had purchased the rights to market and sell Sanorex in the U.S., according to the U.S. attorney's office. The documents he provided to the FDA contained “multiple forgeries,” the criminal complaint released Wednesday alleged.

The false statements charge is punishable by up to five years in prison.

“Mr. Bouaziz maintains his innocence on these charges and looks forward to vindicating himself through the judicial process,” Joel Silberman, an attorney representing Bouaziz, said in an email Wednesday.

Sanorex was manufactured by Novartis Pharmaceuticals and originally approved by the FDA in the 1970s. It was discontinued in the late 1990s, though not for reasons of safety or effectiveness, according to FDA records.