The FDA and law enforcement teams have been unable to slow the influx of counterfeit cancer medications that are entering the U.S. via international drug suppliers. A third instance of fake Avastin has been identified containing no active ingredients as reported in an FDA Health Care Provider Alert yesterday.
Medical Device King (also doing business as Pharmalogical) has been implicated in the illegal sale of drugs mimicking Avastin, a medicine used to treat brain, lung, kidney, and colon cancers that is manufactured by Roche. The counterfeit batch was packaged as Altuzan, a Turkish version of Avastin that is illegal to use in the United States. The distributor’s lawyer states that the claims against them are inaccurate and that “It paints the client in a false light.” Agencies are still working to contact any doctors who may have purchased the fake drugs.
Doctors were first warned about fake batches of Avastin last year when several distributors were found selling cornstarch and acetone drugs with no active ingredients in two different drug networks. Doctors are often attracted to the lower price tag of the counterfeit drug, as Roche’s best seller costs about $2,500 per 400 mg vial. Doctors can see discounts of up to 60% when purchasing counterfeit medicines. Roche’s sales of Avastin topped $5.8 Billion in 2012 alone.
Identifying counterfeit versions of Avastin is difficult in part because the pharmaceutical is sold in 120 countries and is manufactured in 8 different labs around the world. The problem of counterfeit drugs continues to grow as more drugs are being manufactured overseas. “More than 80 percent of the active ingredients used in U.S. pharmaceuticals are now manufactured overseas, according to a recent congressional report” reports the Associated Press. “Incidents of counterfeiting reported by drugmakers have increased steadily over the past decade.”
According to the FDA, it is still unclear whether any patients have received the fake cancer drugs sold by Medical Device King, and doctors are encouraged not to purchase any additional drugs from the company until the case is resolved. The FDA continues to work with law enforcement to target online pharmacy websites and traditional distributors selling illegal and unapproved medicines.
The most commonly faked pharmaceuticals are cancer drugs like Avastin, sexual performance drugs like Viagra and Cialis, and drugs for cosmetic procedures such as Botox.