Bogus Avastin has cropped up repeatedly, WSJ finds

The fake Avastin that surfaced in the U.S. last week isn't the first batch peddled by counterfeiters. In addition to a 2010 case in Shanghai, when more than 100 patients received eye injections of the fake drug, bogus Avastin vials turned up in Syria back in 2009, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Netted in a government counterfeiting bust, the phony packages contained none of Avastin's real active ingredient. What they did contain was bacteria that can cause serious infections, the Journal says, citing a letter distributed at the time by Avastin's bonafide drugmaker, Roche ($RHHBY).

A company spokesman told the WSJ Avastin counterfeits have cropped up in "individual cases in past years," and "not all are public." Counterfeit cases often are reported to health authorities and then communicated to the company, the spokesman said.

As the Journal points out, that Roche has dealt with Avastin fakes before illustrates how pervasive counterfeit drugs have become--and how fake injectables are a growing problem. Fakes of another breast cancer drug have cropped up in Syria and Egypt, for instance, the Journal found. And given that injectable meds are often more expensive than pills, criminals have plenty of incentive to mimic them.

- read the WSJ piece