Human Growth Hormone Sales Sprout Indictments for Phoenix Pharmacy and Workers

A Phoenix pharmacy and its owner have been indicted for selling up to $8 million in human-growth hormone to doctors without receiving prescriptions.

An announcement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix also says the Compounding Center, 4045 East Bell Road, and wholesale division manager Sean Shaffer advertised anti-aging products based on the "impermissable use" of HGH.

The main allegation centers on sales from 2001 to 2006 of $1.2 million to $8.2 million of the hormone, officials say. Shaffer reportedly had no clue whether the doctors were using the HGH legitimately, like he should have, the feds say.

When we called Shaffer -- who told us he's the owner -- to ask about the indictment this afternoon, he was  surprised and "baffled" to hear about it. 

"HGH is not a big mover for us," he says.

He acknowledges it used to be, though. The feds say it once accounted for 38 percent of his business. But "absolutely," all of the sales were legit, he says.

We ask about the part of the news release where it says "undercover operatives" were sent in to Shaffer's shop to buy HGH, telling him it was for "bodybuilders and athletes."

"I have no recollection of that," Shaffer says.

We offer to e-mail him the news release, but he doesn't seem to want it.

You, however, can read it below:


PHOENIX - A federal grand jury in Phoenix returned an indictment on Wednesday against the Compounding Center, Inc., a pharmacy located in Phoenix, and Sean Shaffer, 29, of Phoenix, for Conspiracy in relation to the Prohibited Distribution of Human Growth Hormone. Shaffer was also indicted for two additional counts of Prohibited Distribution of Human Growth Hormone.

The indictment alleges, among other things, that the Compounding Center, Inc. advertised through its website, among other means, offering its services as a supplier of "anti-aging products". The website specifically touted the impermissible use of HGH as being effective to reverse a wide range of signs and symptoms associated with aging. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved the use of HGH for a defined and limited number of diseases. HGH has not been approved for use in any anti-aging, body-building, or weight loss treatments. HGH has also not been shown to be safe and effective for the enhancement of athletic performance.

The indictment further alleges the Compounding Center operated a wholesale department, run by Shaffer, that sold Saizen, a brand of HGH, directly to doctors and other licensed buyers without the receipt of a prescription. Through their advertisements and solicitations, the Compounding Center was able to attract the attention of certain doctors whose practices primarily centered on the purported treatment of anti-aging, performance enhancement and life extension. From on or about November 2001 through on or about March 2006, the Compounding Center and Shaffer sold between approximately $1.2 million to $8.2 million worth of Saizen to these doctors despite there being no indication that these doctors engaged in the treatment of a disease or other recognized medical condition approved by the FDA in relation to the use of this drug. These sales accounted for approximately 38% of the wholesale business conducted by the Compounding Center during the period relevant to the indictment. During the course of the conspiracy, Shaffer, in his capacity as the manager of the wholesale department of the Compounding Center, also sold a number of HGH kits to two undercover operatives who specifically told Shaffer that the purchases were for bodybuilders and athletes.

A conviction for each count alleged carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine ($500,000 for the corporation) or both. In determining an actual sentence, the assigned will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.

An indictment is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The prosecution is being handled by Howard D. Sukenic and Marnie Hodahkwen, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.


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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.