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Roche updates counterfeit Avastin situation, identifies substances

Filed March 5th, 2012 Joshua Sophy

The makers of the cancer drug Avastin have revealed the contents of counterfeit versions of the drug available on the global market.

According to an AP report, Roche announced late last week that regulators in Europe have obtained some of the counterfeit vials of Avastin. The company announced that vials of the adulterated versions of Avastin contained at least 10 substances. Among them, none were used in actual versions of Avastin. The adulterated Avastin contained chemicals like acetone but no actual drug.

AP interviewed a poison control center expert who said each of the substances identified by Roche as being in the counterfeit Avastin were not harmful as long as they aren’t taken in large doses. Roche has not indicated at what concentrations each of the substances found in Avastin were found.

There is no known source of the counterfeit Avastin, Roche said in its statement.

A total of 41 vials of the fake Avastin have reached the U.S. market. Regulators have confirmed that five of the vials have been secured but another 36 are still outstanding.

Avastin is approved for use in in the treatment of colon, lung, kidney, and brain cancers. The drug is also used in diluted or smaller doses in the treatment of some eye conditions.

European regulators have traced the counterfeit Avastin found in the U.S. to distributors in the U.K., Denmark, and Switzerland. These distributors sold the fake and potentially dangerous Avastin vials to wholesalers in the U.S.

Tracking problems from the counterfeit Avastin may be difficult because patients react to the drug differently. Receiving an injection from a vial containing the counterfeit Avastin in the equivalent of missing a dose. Most people receiving Avastin treatment receive numerous injections over a limited period of time. For some cancer patients, this missed dose is not life threatening but for others it could lead to more serious complications.

AP reports that 1,700 incidents of manufacturing counterfeit drugs were noted around the world last year, a figure that’s been increasing steadily year-to-year.

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