By Kamal Menghrajani
Last month the Food and Drug Administration warned 19 doctors and clinics that counterfeit vials of the chemotherapy drug Avastin had been identified in the U.S. Most of those doctors were in California. Today the Wall Street Journal reports that the FDA is investigating two businessmen from Canada who may be the source of these vials. One of them had admitted to shipping fake Avastin last year, although he says he did not know the vials contained counterfeit drugs. While it is generally illegal for anyone but the manufacturer to import prescription drugs into the U.S., it happens frequently and has proven difficult to police, the Journal reports.
“We’re deeply horrified by this counterfeit [product] being sold by one of my companies,” said Thomas Haughton, a Canadian citizen who runs a network of drug distributors that sell to U.S. doctors. At the same time he said that his business operated legally. “We’re doing everything we can to be sure that this never happens again.”
While experts say most U.S. drugs are safe, the probe may raise new concerns about the weakly regulated gray market in foreign drugs aimed at U.S. patients. The importation of foreign drugs by third parties, which takes advantage of the large price differential between the U.S. market and others abroad, is believed to represent a small but growing portion of the $300 billion U.S. prescription pharmaceutical business.