Counterfeit vials of the cancer drug Avastin that were found circulating in Europe and the United States earlier this month contain salt, starch and a variety of chemicals, but none of the active ingredient bevacizumab that fights cancer.
Avastin is an injectable medicine made by Swiss drug maker Roche. It is administered to patients at clinics, hospitals and doctors’ offices. It is used to treat various forms of cancer including colon, kidney, brain and lung cancers. Avastin made headlines recently when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled the drug’s breast cancer indication because it was not proven safe or effective to treat that disease.
The counterfeit Avastin has been traced back to Egypt, where it was then moved through legitimate distributors in Switzerland, Denmark and Britain before advancing to the United States. The FDA has launched an investigation into the counterfeit cancer drug, and has identified companies within the United States that have distributed the counterfeit drugs, and 19 medical practices that have received them.
Roche said in a statement that tested vials varied and that they were unable to determine whether the compounds would cause health problems or pathological effects. Medical practices that have received the drugs were ordered not to use them, to retain and securely store them, and contact the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigation (OCI) at 800-551-3989; visit the OCI website at www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/email/oc/oci/contact.cfm; or email DrugSupplyChainIntegrity@fda.hhs.gov.