No one wants to talk about Oceanside's Sparsha Pharma

“I heard that’s not good for you”

Staff at Sparsha Pharma
  • Staff at Sparsha Pharma
  • Sparsha Pharma website

I happened to be at the May 16, 2018 Oceanside City Council meeting when David Newman gave an emotional rant during the “items not on the agenda” segment. He and his wife Amber had been regulars at the twice-monthly city council meetings, speaking during this public forum that gives locals three minutes to address anything they want. The couple regularly used their three minutes to explain why Oceanside needs to allow the regulated sales of medicinal marijuana.

3919 Oceanic Drive

3919 Oceanic Drive

On this day, Newman went on the offense, wondering why Oceanside continues to be uptight over a plant that has largely been decriminalized in California while allowing a huge hometown laboratory/factory that manufactures Fentanyl products for worldwide distribution.

Last Sunday, April 28, 60 Minutes aired a segment that Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin, is regularly killing people even as it's being illegally delivered through the U.S. Postal Service. It described Fentanyl as the “rocket fuel” of all the opioid products that caused 47,000 overdose deaths in 2017.

60 Minutes claims that most of the Fentanyl came from China. But last year Newman claimed we are ignoring our own Fentanyl factory right here in Oceanside.

Transdermal patch

Transdermal patch

Sparsha Pharma website

“Oceanside is home to a company that makes transdermal Fentanyl patches,” said Newman. “They get to manufacture a narcotic that is considered 50 to 200 times more powerful than morphine, without any of the regulations, oversight, or compliance you might ask of those who would sell medical marijuana.”

To some at that May, 2018 city council meeting, Newman came off as someone who was bitter over always getting denied by a city council majority over his cannabis initiatives.

But Newman was right.

Sparsha Pharma website

The 60 Minutes segment focused on China as the major source/exporter of Fentanyl. It did not mention Sparsha Pharma, a five-year-old Oceanside company that is operating with the blessing of the city of Oceanside.

Sparsha Pharma has had an Oceanside business license for five years. According to its website, its 14,000-square-foot industrial park facility at 3919 Oceanic Drive off of Oceanside Boulevard includes high tech laboratories and manufacturing facilities to create its major product, Fentanyl transdermal patches.

One lady who did not identify herself answered the front door buzzer at Sparsha Pharma’s headquarters on April 29. She said nobody at Sparsha Pharma would have anything to say about their operations. “We’re a private company and we don’t give out information,” she said. I left a business card with a request for a return phone call.

So just how does Oceanside view Sparsha Pahrma. A call to appointed city councilman Ryan Keim, who used to work for both the Oceanside Police and San Diego Sheriff departments, said he was not aware of Sparsha Pharma but would have an email response for this article after he looked into it. That response did not arrive by press time.

A public records request was given to the city clerk’s office asking for any details connected to Sparsha Pharma’s business license. That yielded only a image of a current business license that must renewed annually.

In Oceanside you need an expensive and intrusive Conditional Use Permit or C.U.P. to have a business that gives tattoos, issues pay day loans, or gives massages. Records show if you want to make Fentanyl in Oceanside (as in Sparsha Pharma’s case) you don’t even need a C.U.P.

In Newman’s rant last year, he said that medical pot shops, if they did exist in Oceanside, could not be located within 1,000 feet of public or private schools. “In fact,” said Newman, “this company manufactures this life-threatening narcotic less than Less than 1000 feet from a day care center. Where is the outrage? Where are teachers and government funded groups?”

In fact, Sparsha Pharma is just down the street from a pre-school called Discovery Isle, at 3791 Oceanic Way. Newman alleges Oceanside's leniency with Sparsha Pharma is a huge example of hypocrisy.

When the Newmans spoke at city meetings, they were often rebuffed by adversarial groups, including the North Coastal Prevention Coalition (NCPC), a non-profit that accepts public grants and then speaks in public about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

“I was not aware that it had been approved by the city,” said Erica Leary, NCPC’s program manager. “If we had been aware, I’m not sure if we would have commented one way or another. I am not sure how the they are viewed by the federal government.”

But marijuana versus Fentanyl? Really?

“We don’t pit one substance against another,” says Leary. “But I do find it strange that no one from [Sparsha Pharma] would not want to explain how they sell and distribute their product.”

A call to Cameron Korte, special agent with the San Diego office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, was not returned.

“As far as I can tell, it’s being manufactured here, then shipped overseas, and then it gets shipped back again to be prescribed," adds Newman.

No calls were returned from Sparsha Farma.

Oceanside has increasingly relied on bio-medical companies to boost its economic base. Oceanside’s largest private employer is Genentech. A call to Genentech corporate about Sparsha Pharma was not returned. Calls to other Oceanside bio-med companies like Ceutix Labs, and Nova Biologics were not returned.

The only response from an Oceanside-based bio-med concern came from one person who worked at Gilead Sciences not far from Sparsha Pharma. He was not aware that his neighbor specialized in Fentanyl products. “I heard that’s not good for you,” he deadpanned. He made it clear he did not speak for Gilead Sciences and he wanted to be anonymous.

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Wow, this could be the story of the year. City's got some splainin' to do. Good investigating reporting.

Thanks Ken....there was nothing threatening or unusual or 007ish about the lady who came to the door. She reminded me of a housewife who was bothered that I made her get out of her barcalounger to deal with an annoying door to door salesman.

Truth be told, all the initial investigating was done by David Newman. When I first heard him give his speech I said to myself....."come on're trying too hard. Cut the drama." I stand corrected. He was right on.

This is the sort of "clean", white collar (or white lab coat) business that Oceanside covets, Its business-friendly council and city hall would love to have a dozen more such businesses locate there. (They would really boost the tax take.) Not too big, not very visible, quiet and non-polluting, and generating a nice tax bill: what more can you ask for?

Let's not lose sight of the fact that this operation is not so far accused of doing anything illegal, and it is not accused of selling fentanyl out the door to street addicts or drug pushers. Unless something very unusual is going on, they are operating legally and under strict controls. What happens to the drug in patches after it is shipped to legal buyers is the real question I think. Or is it that someone is honestly worried that some of it might escape and cause harm? That's a matter worth pursuing.

Visduh...of course. It would have good if the lady at the door could have directed me where to go to get these questions answered. Also, the bigger question is how is it that a skin patch company can support a 14,000 square foot building, and, why do we need a fentanyl patch when morphine is plenty strong? Good questions but no way to answer. The DEA agent called me back today and said she would right back. No answer.

You're getting stonewalled, and that in itself raises suspicion. The fact that the company isn't willing to talk doesn't fill one with confidence. Either they just are afraid that the drug is now a toxic subject and want to lie low, or they fear that they will end up kicked out of the building and kicked out of Oceanside. We might wonder what sort of story the "Mare" of Oceanside will offer when questioned about this operation. Pete Weiss is on the hot seat for many other moves made by the city. He might reconsider holding the office.

" … why do we need a fentanyl patch when morphine is plenty strong?"

It may be due to the controlled release of the patch. You can shoot up enough morphine in a minute to kill you, but the patch can't. However a dozen patches at once might have a dramatic effect !

Many people who die from an overdose of [evil drug of the moment] are making a choice. They don't want to live. They want to go in a somewhat pleasant way (morphine and derivatives are very pleasant!). Exactly who has a right to interfere with this process? Until there is a legal and reasonable way to off yourself, this may be ideal.

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