When a patient takes a prescription drug, he or she expects that the appropriate medicine will be delivered into their body. One does not expect that the drug that he or she is taking is a counterfeit drug. But that is just what is happening with increasing frequency in the United States and around the world. In fact, drugs used to treat some of the most deadly diseases, such as cancer, may be counterfeit.
The counterfeit drug trade came to a head last year when the FDA warned 20 U.S. doctors and medical practices in February and March that they may have obtained fake copies of Avastin from a small drug wholesaler called Montana Healthcare Solutions. Most recently, the FDA disclosed that it had warned additional doctors – bringing the total to 76 doctors across 22 states – that they may have purchased counterfeit versions of Avastin.
The Avastin counterfeit scandal was particularly devastating because Avastin is used to treat patients with aggressive cancer, whereas up until that point counterfeits had involved fake version of drugs used to treat less invasive medical conditions, such as high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction.
The problem with counterfeit drugs has been brewing for years. According to Bioethics International, by 2003, drug manufacturers discontinued trade with online pharmacies out of Canada in order to protect their patented pharmaceuticals. As a result, Canada Drugs began buying pharmaceuticals from remote countries with slipshod regulation and problems with counterfeiting.
Many of the counterfeit drugs that have been seized in recent years were produced in China, which has lax regulatory requirements and inexpensive labor. A Wall Street Journal article reports that the fake Avastin was produced in China, traveled through Turkey and the U.K, and eventually arrived in the United States.
The U.S. counterfeit cancer drug trade is just a small part of the global counterfeit drug epidemic. For instance, the Wall Street Journal reports that a police raid in the Chinese city of Guangzhou last year netted 23 million tablets of a variety of counterfeit drugs, including fake versions of the generic breast cancer drug Tamoxifen.
The fake cancer drugs coming out of China have been known to contain anything from harmless placebo ingredients to potentially harmful ingredients, while some fake drugs do contain some of the active ingredients of the legitimate versions of the drugs mixed with additional substances.
The counterfeit cancer drug trade is growing, in part, due to the high profits that can be made by producing counterfeit cancer drugs. According to a Wall Street Journal article, a 400-milligram vial of the injectable drug Avastin costs about $2,400 whereas pills such as Viagra (another common counterfeit drug) cost about $15 to $20 a tablet.
The Chicago unsafe pharmaceutical attorneys at Ankin Law Offices, LLC are dedicated to protecting consumers from dangerous and defective pharmaceutical drugs, including counterfeit drugs. If you have been injured as a result of an unsafe pharmaceutical, contact our office today at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable Chicago product liability attorneys.