More Fake Cancer Drugs Make Their Way To America
April 4, 2012

More Fake Cancer Drugs Make Their Way To America

Another batch of counterfeit Avastin, a cancer fighting drug, has been discovered in the United States. The new batch of counterfeit drugs discovered in the US was purchased in Turkey and shipped through Britain, officials said on Wednesday. Though the business in between Turkey and the US is different this time around, this shipping pattern closely resembles an earlier episode.

The fake version of the Roche Genentech drug was first discovered in February and was received by as many as 19 different health practices across the United States.

This new case brings to light certain vulnerabilities in the global medicine supply chain. Such weaknesses can leave patients vulnerable to ineffective and dangerous medicines.

According to Reuters, Britain´s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said they were investigating how the latest batch of counterfeit drugs was received in Britain before leaving again for the US.

“It´s an ongoing investigation,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Kyne. “We´re helping the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) with their investigation and doing all we can on our side.”

This time around, the fake drug is labeled as Altuzan, the brand name for Avastin in Turkey. Of the 120 packs of Altuzan purchased by the British wholesaler, 38 were directly exported to the United States. The remaining packs are also America-bound, said Kyne, and may be shipped from another UK distributor.

The MHRA has found no evidence of the counterfeit drug being administered to patients in Britain.

The global medicine supply chain has undergone scrutiny after the first batch of counterfeit Avastin had been found in America. This case was much more serious than previous counterfeit cases, as they usually focused on simple pills. In contrast, Avastin is an injectable drug whose annual sales total $6 billion.

Just as in the previous case, this batch of counterfeit drug lacks the active ingredient of Avastin, bevacizumab.

The MHRA discovered on March 28 that batch B6021was counterfeit.

Swiss drug-maker Roche Genentech manufactures the drug.

Speaking to Reuters, a Roche spokesperson said authentic Altuzan features an all Turkish-language packaging. The fake labels, by comparison, are printed in English.

US medical practices have purchased the latest batch of counterfeit Avastin from overseas suppliers, according to the FDA. The MHRA is investigating the supply chain involved in the movement of these fake drugs and are looking at one overseas supplier, known as “Richards Pharma,” in particular.

Legitimate vials of the drug labeled as Avastin are packaged in San Francisco, California. A popular cancer-fighting drug, Avastin works by choking off the blood supply used to feed tumors. It is often prescribed to treat colon, lung, kidney, and brain cancers. It was the first of its kind to be approved in America by the FDA and in 2010 was the 14th best selling drug, according to data tracking firm IMS health.