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Morning Notes

New Weapon in Battle Against Opioid Addiction — “Arlington County has taken a proactive measure in the fight against prescription drug abuse by installing three permanent drug-take back boxes. The public can now safely and securely dispose of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 day a year. This disposal service is free and anonymous with no questions asked.” [Arlington County]

Lack of 5G Could Hurt Amazon Bid — Arlington’s lack of 5G wireless service could hurt it in the eyes of Amazon as the online giant considers the county for its second headquarters, says a letter to the editor writer. The county should have more actively adjusted policy and lobbied carriers for 5G, the writer suggests. [InsideNova]

Woman Arrested After Victoria’s Secret Assault — “A D.C. woman was arrested for attacking two employees at a Victoria’s Secret in Arlington after she says one of them followed her around the store, according to authorities.” [WJLA]

Average I-66 HOV Round Trip Cost — The average round trip cost for single occupant drivers on the I-66 Express Lanes, from their December opening to the end of April, was $12.72, according to new data. Some drivers have faced steeper tolls during “peak of the peak” times. [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani

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Levine ‘Extremely Optimistic’ of Legalizing Medical Marijuana This Year

Del. Mark Levine (D-45) has said he is “extremely optimistic” of a bill passing in the Virginia General Assembly this year that would legalize a form of medical marijuana.

Levine is chief co-patron on H.B. 1251, introduced by Del. Ben Cline (R-24), which advanced from a subcommittee of the Virginia House of Delegates’ Courts of Justice committee.

It would make medical marijuana, made from cannabidiol oils that can be used for medical purposes after being derived from the flowers of cannabis plants, legal as of July 1, 2018.

The bill would allow physicians to recommend the use of medical cannabidiol oils, going further than a bill introduced by Levine — H.B. 137 — that would have allowed its use only for cancer patients.

He introduced the same legislation in 2017, but it failed in subcommittee. Since then, Levine said he has worked to show lawmakers on both sides of the aisle the benefits of legalization, including Cline, who said he was “pleased with what I’m hearing. I’m hearing developments that I haven’t heard before,” in a hearing last year.

“I’ve long advocated for reform of our outdated and unnecessarily punitive marijuana laws,” Levine wrote in an email to supporters. “Those of you who know me personally know I’ve never even tried cannabis… But just because something physically disgusts me does not make me blind to the scientific fact that non-psychoactive cannabidiol oils from cannabis — oils that don’t get you “high” — have proven scientific effects that reduce pain and nausea and even kill cancer cells.”

The legislation still needs to pass both the House of Delegates and the Virginia State Senate, but Levine said he is hopeful of full passage.

“Having counted the votes on full committee and talked to members in both the House of Delegates and the Senate, I am extremely optimistic about the fate of this legislation,” Levine wrote. “I expect this law to pass. I predict cannabidiol oils will be legally prescribed in Virginia for diagnosis or treatment of illnesses beginning in July 2018.”

In a similar vein, bills by state Sens. Adam Ebbin (D-30) and Barbara Favola (D-31) that would have decriminalized the possession of marijuana and reduce penalties for its distribution both failed in committee today (Monday).

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Morning Notes

Long line for the iPhone 5S outside the Apple Store at Pentagon City mall on 9/20/13

Reconfigured W. Glebe Road Intersection Considered — Arlington and Alexandria are considering moving the intersection of W. Glebe Road and S. Glebe Road in order to lessen congestion on Glebe near I-395. The proposal is now part of Alexandria’s long-range planning process. [Patch]

New Picnic Shelter for Lacey Woods Park — The Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote this weekend on an enhancement to Lacey Woods Park (1200 N. George Mason Drive). The Board will consider awarding a $341,000 contract to reconstruct the park’s 100-person picnic shelter. [Sun Gazette]

Moran Decries Proposed Cuts to Food Stamps — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says a Republican plan to cut nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will hurt low-income families and children and unemployed adults. Yesterday the House of Representatives passed the plan by a vote of 217-210. In his weekly newspaper column, Moran wrote: “it is disheartening to find House Republicans wasting valuable time on efforts to reduce food availability for the hungry instead of addressing urgent issues facing our nation.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Arlington Girl Raises Awareness of Rare Disease — A 5-year-old Arlington girl, who just started kindergarten at Abingdon Elementary, is battling a genetic, degenerative mitochondrial disease for which there is no known cure. Ellie McGinn and her parents have launched a campaign to raise medical awareness of the extremely rare disease. [Washington Post]

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Arlington Residents Charged in Pharmaceutical Scheme

Medication (file photo)Two Arlington residents have been arrested and charged with running an illegal pharmaceutical business from their Crystal City apartment.

Syed “Farhan” Huda, 38, and his wife, Deeba Mallick, 36, were among 11 people charged in a 17-count indictment unsealed in federal court today.

Prosecutors say Huda and Mallick masterminded a scheme in which they imported non-FDA-approved prescription drugs from various parts of the world, then switched the labels and sold the drugs to doctors, hospitals and medical practices across the U.S. The scheme is alleged to have generated more than $8.6 million in revenue over the past four years.

The couple and their alleged co-conspirators face various fraud and medical-related charges. They appeared before Judge John F. Anderson in Alexandria federal court today.

On its website, Gallant Pharma promotes its ability to deliver wholesale prescription drugs for “20-80% off your current supplier.”

“Due to our strong international supply chain, we are able to provide products at deep discounts compared to what you are currently paying,” the site says.

The press release about the charges, after the jump.

Seven arrests have been made in a coordinated operation spanning several states, related to the unsealing of a 17-count indictment and criminal complaint involving Gallant Pharma International Inc., an allegedly unlicensed company that is accused of distributing misbranded prescription drugs from its headquarters in Crystal City, Virginia, and an office in Springfield, Virginia. The individuals arrested were:

Syed “Farhan” Huda, 38, of Arlington, Virginia;
Deeba Mallick, 36, of Arlington, Virginia;
Anoushirvan R. Sarraf, 47, of Rockville, Maryland;
Talib Khan, 42, of Montreal, Canada, and Barbados;
Harvey Whitehead, 67, of Troy, Michigan;
Lisa Coroniti, 46, of Devon, Pennsylvania; and
Robert J. Sparks, 30, of Springfield, Virginia.

Munajj Rochelle, 36, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, is currently incarcerated in Montreal, Canada, on unrelated charges. Arrest warrants have been issued for the remaining three defendants, Robert Wachna of Ottawa, Canada, Mirwaiss Aminzada, 43, of Montreal, Canada, and Patricia Durr, 49, of Hopkington, MA.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Antoinette V. Henry, Special Agent in Charge, FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, Gary Barksdale, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service, and Special Agent in Charge John P. Torres, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, made the announcement after the four defendants arrested in the Eastern District of Virginia – Huda, Mallick, Sarraf, and Sparks – made their initial appearances before Judge John F. Anderson.

According to the 17-count indictment unsealed today, Khan and Huda were principals of Gallant Pharma, which allegedly began illegally importing prescription drugs, including intravenous chemotherapy drugs and injectable cosmetics, into the United States in or around August 2009. Gallant Pharma represented itself as a “Canadian company” and told potential customers that it sold drugs from Canada. The indictment alleges, however, that Khan, with the assistance of Huda, Mallick, Aminzada, and others, acquired drugs from other parts of the world, including India, Switzerland, and Turkey. These drugs were allegedly not manufactured and packaged in accordance with FDA requirements and, in some cases, were not approved by the FDA for use in the United States. The indictment states that Gallant Pharma imported the drugs with the assistance of co-conspirators in Canada and the United Kingdom, including Aminzada, who broke large shipments into many small packages, mislabeled the contents of packages, and addressed deliveries to Dr. Sarraf at his medical practice in McLean, Virginia, in order to lessen scrutiny by Customs and Border Protection. Initially, Gallant Pharma allegedly operated out of the apartment of Huda and his wife, Mallick, in Crystal City, where Huda is alleged to have served as the day-to-day head of Gallant Pharma in the United States and Mallick had primary responsibility for processing sales invoices and customer payments. Until June 2013, Gallant Pharma allegedly stored the misbranded drugs at an office in Springfield, Virginia.

According to the indictment, Gallant Pharma was not licensed to distribute prescription drugs in the United States. Nonetheless, Gallant Pharma is alleged to have sold drugs to doctors, hospitals, and medical practices across the United States, generating more than $8.6 million in revenue since August 2009. Gallant Pharma allegedly employed a cadre of sales representatives with dedicated sales territories across the United States.

The defendants are charged with the following offenses: conspiracy to commit importation fraud, introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, unlicensed medical wholesaling, wire fraud, and to defraud the FDA, each of which is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of five years; importation contrary to law, which is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of twenty years; introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, which is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of three years; unlicensed medical wholesaling, which is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of three years; wire fraud, which is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of twenty years; and monetary transactions with criminally derived proceeds, which is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years.

The investigation was conducted by FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Drug Enforcement Agency Group 33 Diversion Task Force, Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the Arlington County Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Lindsay A. Kelly, Alexander T.H. Nguyen, and Ryan K. Dickey are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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Ballston Urgent Care Clinic Opens Monday

A new urgent care facility is opening in Ballston next week.

The Inova Urgent Care and Inova Medical Group primary care offices will open for business Monday, July 15, in their new offices at 1005 N. Glebe Road in Ballston.

The urgent care facility is on the first floor of the building — serving patients for work-related injuries, allergic reactions, broken bones and other such ailments — while the primary care service is on the fourth floor. Dr. Randi Kodroff will be the primary care physician at the facility, but the plan is to bring aboard a second doctor sometime in the future, Inova officials said.

Inova held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility Friday morning, attended by Rep. Jim Moran (D), Sen. Barbara Favola (D), County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette and Board member Libby Garvey, among others. CEO of Inova Alexandria Hospital Christine Candio delivered remarks commemorating the occasion.

“It’s clear that urgent care is needed based on the density here in Ballston,” Candio said. “We’re please to be providing quality healthcare services to Arlington.”

Candio said Inova also plans to soon add sports medicine, behavioral health and OB/GYN services in the near future. She said the office is also targeting small businesses who need services such as workmen’s compensation help and employee physicals.

The urgent care facility is 5,891 square feet and has four exam rooms, two rooms for emergency injuries and a cardiac imaging room. The primary care office on the fourth floor is 2,500 square feet.

“Our slogan is meeting the patient where the patient wants to be met, and that’s here in Ballston,” said Jeffrey Carr, Inova’s growth officer. “The market requires access, value and affordability and this has all three things.”

The facility will compete with other urgent care clinics in the area, including MidAtlantic Urgent Care, Simplicity Urgent Care and Virginia Hospital Center Urgent Care.

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Training Exercise Will Prepare Arlington for Bioterror, Pandemics and Zombies

Arlington Medical Reserve CorpsArlington County will conduct a training exercise this week that will test its ability to respond to biological emergencies.

The exercise will simulate the door-to-door delivery of medication in the event of bioterrorism or a natural pandemic. On Thursday, April 25, some 50 volunteers will deliver small bags to the doorknobs of residents at the Gates of Ballston and River Place West apartment complexes, and in the Aurora Highlands and Ballston/Virginia Square neighborhoods.

“The bag will contain emergency preparedness information and other contents designed to simulate the weight and bulk of the actual medication that may be delivered in an emergency,” said Kurt Larrick, communications manager for the Arlington County Department of Human Services.

He continued: “The purpose of the exercise is to enhance the County’s ability to respond in an emergency by understanding how long it might take to reach all doorknobs in Arlington, should the need arise to give out antibiotic medicine and provide important information in a public health emergency where timely delivery to the population is essential.”

Larrick was asked: could the door-to-door delivery of medication also help in the theoretical scenario of a zombie apocalypse?

“We take an ‘all hazards’ approach to our emergency preparedness and response, so I am confident in our ability to respond quickly and effectively to any scenario, including zombies,” Larrick told ARLnow.com.

Before the distribution exercise on Thursday, about 25 volunteers will gather at the Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street) on Tuesday to help assemble the materials that will be used in the exercise.

In the event of a real medical emergency, the county will have the option of delivering medication door-to-door, or setting up a number of “PODs” — or Points of Dispensing — in the community. While delivering door-to-door to Arlington’s 100,000 households sounds daunting, the county has access to more than 300 Medical Reserve Corps volunteers and 3,500 county staffers to do the job.

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CVS Launches ‘MinuteClinic’ in Pentagon City

CVS Pharmacy has launched a MinuteClinic at its new Pentagon City location (1201 S. Hayes Street).

The store-based clinic will offer customers quick diagnostics and solutions for common ailments and injuries, as well as vaccinations and and basic check-ups for adolescents. From a company press release:

MinuteClinic nurse practitioners and physician assistants specialize in family health care and can diagnose, treat and write prescriptions for common family illnesses such as strep throat and ear, eye, sinus, bladder and bronchial infections. Minor wounds, abrasions and joint sprains are treated, and common vaccinations such as influenza, tetanus, pneumonia and Hepatitis A & B are available at most locations. Walk-in camp, sports and college physicals for adolescents are available daily. In addition, MinuteClinic administers a series of wellness services designed to help consumers identify lifestyle changes needed to improve their current and future health, including screenings and monitoring for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

No appointments are required at MinuteClinic and most health insurance is accepted. For patients paying cash or credit, treatment prices are posted at each medical center and on www.minuteclinic.com. The cost for most treatment starts at $79.

A PR rep for the company said MinuteClinics help to make healthcare “more accessible, convenient and affordable for patients near where they live and work.”

This is the second MinuteClinic in Arlington and the 22nd in the metro D.C. area. The other Arlington-based MinuteClinic is located at the CVS at the Lyon Village Shopping Center (3133 Lee Highway).

Both Arlington clinics operate seven days a week, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday; and 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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Morning Notes

Woman Falls into Hatch at Pentagon Station — Last week a 52-year-old woman fell through a hatch near an escalator at the Pentagon Metro station, injuring her knee and face. Two Metro workers have been fired for their role in leaving the hatch wide open. [WTOP]

GOP Praying for Candidates — The Arlington County Republican Committee is literally praying for candidates to challenge Democrats in the fall. So far, they only have one for more than a dozen local races. [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Wins Walkability Award — Arlington has received a “Gold-level designation for walkability” from the national Walk Friendly Communities program. “We welcome this recognition of Arlington’s efforts to create streets and paths that are safe, pleasant and interesting places to walk,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement. [Arlington County]

Medical Office Opens Near Crystal City — Commonwealth Medical Center, a new primary care provider, celebrates its grand opening today at 3535 S. Ball Street, between Crystal City and Potomac Yard.

Flickr pool photo by Karon

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Morning Notes

Arlington Docs Take Money from Drug Companies –– Big pharmaceutical companies have paid tens of thousands of dollars to Arlington doctors over the past two years, raising questions about possible conflicts of interest, according to the Arlington Connection. One doctor who talked to the paper had received more than $63,000 from one drug company over the past two years.

Arlington Eateries on TV — Metro 29 Diner (4711 Lee Highway) was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives program last night, as Twitter user Joe L. pointed out. Meanwhile, MTV was seen filming a segment for the documentary “True Life: I’m Allergic to Everything” at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington last week, according to Shirlington Village Blogspot.

Iota’s Breakfast Not Catching On, Yet — It’s too bad nobody knows that Iota Club & Cafe in Clarendon (2832 Wilson Blvd) now serves breakfast, says a reader. “Iota in Clarendon has just started serving espresso coffee, pastries, and full breakfast starting at 6:30am. Free wifi too. I just went and the coffee’s good and the place is empty,” Patricia said yesterday via email. Previously: We Love DC.

Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99

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