|Image courtesy of the FDA|
While counterfeit drugs pose a deadly problem in some parts of the world, in the U.S., not so much. As long as the issue mostly involved some schmuck buying fake erectile dysfunction drugs off the Internet, most of the American public was not much concerned. Now it is. Why? Avastin. Or more precisely not Avastin.
The problem that drugmakers, regulators and law enforcement had been grappling with hit home, and hard, when it was learned that physician practices throughout the U.S. and Europe had purchased a counterfeit version of Roche's colon cancer drug Avastin. Suddenly, the problem was serious.
It wasn't that the phony drug contained anything that would kill patients. It was that it contained nothing that would help them. Lab analysis found that the fake had salt and starch and a variety of chemicals, but no active ingredient. About 75 physician practices in the U.S., apparently trying to shave some costs and perhaps fatten their profits, apparently bought the drugs at a deep discount through companies tied to the owner of a Canadian Internet pharmacy company. While Avastin usually goes for $2,400 a vial, the company was offering the fake at the everyday low price of $1,995.
Roche ($RHHBY) says there is no indication that any patients suffered adverse reactions, but of course, if regulators in the U.S. and Europe had not discovered the fakes, then deaths might have occurred. And who is to know if there are other fakes still out there being given to seriously ill patients.