As doctors search their shelves for the counterfeit Avastin flagged by Roche ($RHHBY) and the FDA yesterday, officials are also hunting down illegally imported, unauthorized versions of other pricey injectable meds. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the Avastin fakes are by no means the only bogus vials that appear to have slipped into the U.S. supply chain.
The FDA has alerted doctors about some "non-FDA-approved" versions of Roche's breast cancer treatment Herceptin and lymphoma drug Rituxan, and the Amgen ($AMGN) anemia treatment Neupogen, the Journal reports. The agency also notified AstraZeneca ($AZN) about illegally imported cancer drugs, including the company's breast cancer drug Faslodex.
It makes sense that counterfeiters would turn to injectable drugs, if only based on sticker price. Vials of legitimate Avastin in the 400-mg size--the size counterfeiters chose to fake--run $2,400 apiece. That's a lot more than a bottle of the frequently-faked erectile dysfunction pill Viagra. And it makes sense that profit-minded doctors might look for a cut-rate source of those vials. Reuters obtained a price list for drugs offered by Montana Healthcare Solutions, the company that allegedly sold the fake Avastin. Its price for those $2,400 vials was less than $1,900.
That list of "lower-priced European alternatives" to U.S. products also included products from Amgen, Eli Lilly ($LLY), Celgene ($CELG) and Novartis ($NVS), Reuters says. It's not clear that any of those other "alternative" drugs were counterfeit, or whether Montana Healthcare is authorized to sell any of them. But it is clear that clinics are increasingly turning to overseas sources or unapproved suppliers. "What we've seen is that there are active efforts [under way] by persons to specifically target clinics and doctors," the Pharmaceutical Security Institute's Tom Kubic told the news service. "We're well beyond the traditional counterfeit medicines we've seen in certain therapeutic categories."