Pfizer, Lilly and Sanofi help authorities break up counterfeiters

A gang believed to be importing fake drugs from Asia, including erectile dysfunction drug knockoffs, has been intercepted by authorities with the help of Pfizer ($PFE), Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Sanofi ($SNY).

Europol announced the arrests of 6 people in Spain and the U.K. These kinds of actions are drawing more attention after it was discovered last month that a counterfeit version of Roche's ($RHHBY) cancer drug Avastin, possibly made in China, had been shipped to physician clinics in the U.S.

In the case of the 6 arrests made at the end of last week, Securing Pharma reports that the group was believed to be importing counterfeits mostly from China and Singapore. Four of the 6--including a Spanish national, a Dutchman and two Romanian citizens--were arrested in Spain, and two Brits were arrested in the U.K.

In this case, about 300,000 doses of medications were being sold as generic drugs as well as fake versions of Pfizer's Viagra and Eli Lilly's Cialis. Counterfeit versions of erectile dysfunction drugs sold over the Internet have been popular with criminals. But the stakes were raised last month when the fake Avastin, which contained salt, starch and some chemicals but no active ingredient, made it into the U.S. from a Canadian wholesaler.

Regulators and the industry are trying to get a handle on the situation, but given the international nature of drug manufacturing and the pharmaceutical supply chain, plugging breeches in the system is getting more complicated. Some countries already require specialized dose packaging that can make tracking easier, but that has yet to be required in the U.S.

- read the Securing Pharma story