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3 Fake Drugs Are Found in Pharmacies

June 6, 2001

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating four cases of counterfeit prescription drugs making their way to pharmacy shelves, and, in some cases, being sold to patients. To date no one has been seriously harmed by the fake drugs, but some patients have had adverse reactions. FDA officials say they have made the investigation a high priority, but that they cannot discuss many aspects of the cases because of the ongoing investigation. In the meantime, FDA officials and the brand name drug manufacturers have sent letters to pharmacies, doctors and distributors to warn them about the counterfeit drugs.

The medications involved are three injectable drugs: Serostim, a growth hormone sold by Serono and used by AIDS patients; Nutropin, a growth hormone sold by Genentech; and Neupogen, a cancer drug sold by Amgen. All the brand name drugs carry a high price, which could be why the counterfeiters selected them. A 12-week course of Serostim, for instance, costs $21,000. The counterfeiters may have been able to find an easy market for their drugs since Serostim and Nutropin are sought by people who believe the drugs will help them lose weight, build muscle and smooth wrinkles.

Serono first realized that someone was counterfeiting Serostim late last year when patients in at least seven states began to complain that they had suffered a slight swelling or a skin rash after being injected. And last month, the FDA reported three more cases of counterfeit drugs involving Neupogen, Nutropin and a second fake batch of Serostim. In each case, the counterfeit drug looked nearly identical to the real product. For Serostim, the lot number, which is used to trace drugs, was a real number; only the expiration date had been changed from August 2001 to August 2002.

Back to other CDC news for June 6, 2001

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Adapted from:
New York Times
06.05.01; Melody Petersen

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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