Physician gets prison for selling misbranded drugs, faking diagnosis to avoid trial 

Former Merline, N.J.-based physician William Merlino has been sentenced to 31 months in prison for selling misbranded drugs online and faking a diagnosis to avoid trial. 

An FDA investigation revealed that Dr. Merlino, a retired physician, packaged and sold the chemical 2,4-Dinitrophenol, which has never been approved for human consumption, as a weight loss drug, according to a June 1 Justice Department news release. 

From November 2017 to March 2019, he used Twitter to advertise and eBay to sell the drug, also known as DNP, out of his home. He earned approximately $54,000 from his sales of DNP to hundreds of customers. 

In December 2019, Dr. Merlino was charged with one count of introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, and in August 2021, he faked a pancreatic cancer diagnosis to avoid trial. His trial was delayed several months until the lie was discovered in January 2022, when he was charged with obstructing justice and detained, the release said. 

At sentencing, the government presented evidence that a customer died from DNP toxicity from the pills he purchased from Dr. Merlino. He pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge in January 2023.

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