Counterfeit cancer drugs resurface in the US

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Once again, counterfeit vials of a cancer drug have surfaced in the U.S., according to CBS News. The Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings to health care professionals that fake vials of the drug Altuzan were brought into the U.S. by British companies, after being purchased from wholesalers in Turkey.

Just last month counterfeit vials of Avastin, another cancer drug, were brought into the U.S. illegally. Canadian businessman Tom Haughton was responsible for bringing the counterfeit Avastin into the U.S. and selling it to health care providers across the country.

“It’s my fault that my company sold this product,” Haughton said. “But I’m telling you we sourced it from the controlled and regulated EU supply chain that millions of people trust every day.”

A company in the U.K. owned by Haughton is now accused of also distributing many of the counterfeit Altuzan vials. The company, River East Supplies, shipped 82 of the 120 counterfeit vials found in the U.S.

“We’re depending on the governments and regulators to make sure these supply chains are indeed safe. I will do everything within my power to ensure this never happens ever again,” Haughton said.

One of the distributors of the counterfeit Altuzan was California-based Ban Dune Marketing, whose owner pleaded guilty to distributing “adulterated prescription drugs” for cancer treatment that were not FDA approved.

Ban Dune offered huge discounts to its customers, from fourteen to sixty percent, and requested doctors keep its price list confidential, according to the government.

“What we’re seeing is a pattern of this risky practice of purchasing unapproved drugs from foreign suppliers,” said Connie Jung of the FDA’s Office of Drug Security, Integrity and Recalls.

When CBS News contacted Haughton about the counterfeit Altuzan, he had no comment.

The FDA declined to tell CBS how many doctors received the counterfeit Altuzan, but said “these counterfeit products are potentially dangerous to patients who are relying on these medicines to get better.”

Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, said, “Counterfeit drugs is a huge problem in the United States… The estimates are that $75 billion worth of sales of counterfeit drugs occur annually.”

Altuzan, containing the same active ingredient Avastin, is only sold in Turkey and not approved for use in the United States.

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