FDA discovers more fake cancer meds in U.S.

A counterfeit of Roche's Altuzan was shipped to providers from Medical Device King.--Courtesy of the FDA

The FDA and law enforcement authorities last year upped the heat on drug counterfeiters and their suppliers after counterfeit cancer meds were found in the U.S. But try as they may, they have been unable to prevent more from seeping in through a leaky international supply chain. 

Almost a year after the FDA first warned that counterfeits of Roche's ($RHHBY) cancer drug Avastin had been discovered in the U.S., it has found yet another supply of the fake drug being shipped to physician practices.

In a warning to healthcare providers, the FDA said that a counterfeit of Roche's cancer drug Altuzan that was shipped to some providers from Medical Device King. Lab tests determined it contains no active ingredient. The agency said that even if the Altuzan (bevacizumab) was not counterfeit, only Roche's Avastin is approved by the FDA for sale in the U.S. Altuzan is the trade name used for the drug in Turkey.

The website for Medical Device King, also know as Pharmalogical, had no telephone number for direct contact but does claim, "All of our medications come with our guarantee the product you receive is from its original manufacturer." A lawyer for Pharmalogical, tracked down by The Wall Street Journal, said that the warning isn't accurate and "paints the client in a false light."

According to WSJ, the FDA said that two batches had been shipped and one was confirmed to be counterfeit. It said that no patients were believed to have received the fake drugs.

Last February, the FDA first warned providers that counterfeit Avastin had been discovered. Several other reports followed. The FDA and law enforcement authorities have gone on an aggressive counterattack, targeting online sites that sell unapproved drugs and prosecuting and convicting a number of players, mostly at lower levels of the counterfeit pyramid.

While Viagra and other lifestyle drugs have been the most commonly faked drugs, cancer meds and other high-dollar drugs seem to be a new focus for fakers. Late last year, the FDA warned physician practices about potentially counterfeit Botox they had bought through companies tied to CanadaDrugs.com, the Winnipeg-based online drug supplier that the agency has been after for years.

- read the FDA warning
- more from The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)

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