On Tuesday, Roche Holding announced that a counterfeit version of its best selling cancer drug Avastin was sold in the United States market. The pharmaceutical group warned doctors, hospitals and patient groups that they might not have the right Avastin formula.
According to the Swiss Roche Genentech unit tests have shown there are vials of Avastin on the market that did not contain the active ingredient that is essential in the treatment of colon, lung, kidney and brain cancer.
As much money as the counterfeit version of Avastin may cost Roche, the issue at hand is identifying it before it reaches patients. Avastin is Roche’s best selling drug bringing revenue of $6 billion a year.
Spokeswoman Charlotte Arnold for Roche said the company does not know if any patients received the counterfeit version of Avastin, nor exactly how much of it was distributed in the United States. Although the company is still testing vials of the counterfeit drug, Genentech’s spokeswoman said: “It’s not Avastin. It’s not safe and effective, and it shouldn’t be used”.
Charlotte Arnold added that the counterfeit version of the drug is “an infused medicine and not something a patient would have in their hands, so it’s really health care providers who should be on the lookout”.
The company alerted the authorities too, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already initiated an investigation. So far, the FDA sent letters to 19 medical practices throughout the United States, known for buying unapproved cancer medications. “FDA has requested that the medical practices stop using any remaining products” from Quality Specialty Products and Montana Health Care Solutions, suppliers that allegedly have purchased and sold the drugs.
Washington Post writes that the counterfeit version of Avastin does not have Genentech printed on the packaging. In addition, authentic Avastin contains a six digit lot number with no letters and all the packaging text is written in English.
According to the company, the following Avastin lot numbers may be fake: B86017, B6011 and B6010.
A similar situation caused dozens of death four years ago as a contaminated blood thinnerscaused hundreds of allergic reactions across the United States.