Cancer patients are furious that a counterfeit version of the drug Avastin has landed in U.S. clinics. But, who wouldn’t be when your life is on the line? Definitely can’t blame them one bit!
The counterfeit version was just discovered at U.S. health care facilities, prompting the maker of the cancer drug to warn doctors and patients about the bogus medications.
According to Roche’s Genentech, the fake Avastin does not contain the key ingredient in Avastin, which is prescribed for the treatment of colon, lung, kidney, and brain cancers, said The Associated Press (AP).
A Genentech spokeswoman said the counterfeit drug was distributed to health care facilities nationwide; however, the exact number of counterfeit products that were released, and where those products were sent, remains unknown. The firm and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are collaborating to locate bogus vials and determine their contents, said the AP.
“The counterfeit contains no Avastin, no generic Avastin, no active ingredient whatsoever,” Genentech spokesman Ed Lang told ABC News. Lang said the contents of the vials are still under investigation.
Genentech spokeswoman Charlotte Arnold told the AP that Genentech learned of the problem from foreign health regulators and believes the counterfeits were likely imported; however, she could not say which country is involved.
The AP wrote that the counterfeit products do not bear “Genentech” on their packaging, which does appear on all FDA-approved Avastin cartons and vials. The counterfeit vials are labeled “Avastin” but indicate “Roche” as the manufacturer. Roche is the parent company of Genentech.
The legitimate Avastin product contains a six-digit lot number with no letters and legitimate product packaging text is in English. Genentech believes that the bogus drugs may bear the following fake lot numbers: B86017, B6011, and B6010, said the AP.
The FDA announced that 19 clinics in California, Texas and Illinois may have purchased the phony Avastin from Quality Specialty Products, an “unapproved” foreign supplier also known as Montana Health Care Solutions.
Montana Health Care Solutions claimed to be based in Belgrade, Mont. But the company’s recently disconnected phone number has a New Brunswick, Canada, area code. It’s unknown whether Montana Health Care Solutions knew the Avastin was counterfeit. They also sold other cancer drugs, including Neulasta and Faslodex, at a significantly discounted price.
“FDA has requested that the medical practices stop using any remaining products from these suppliers,” the FDA said in a statement.
The AP said that physicians who believe they may be in possession of the counterfeit Avastin should contact the FDA’s criminal unit or Roche’s quality assurance department.
Avastin, which is made by the California-based company Genentech, is used in combination with chemotherapy to treat cancers of the colon, brain, kidneys and lungs. But the counterfeit lacks the tumor-starving ingredient some patients need to survive.
“It’s an outrage,” said Diane Barraza, 48, who takes Avastin for stage IV colon cancer. “For a company to sell this drug, put it in our blood, it’s an outrage.”
For patients like Barraza, a fake cancer drug is an unimaginable thing. “To sit in the chemo chair and watch that stuff drop into my veins,” said an emotional Barraza, who lives in Fullerton, Calif., with her 6-year-old daughter. “It’s all I’ve got. And it might just be water?”
For Barraza, who will have four more Avastin treatments over the next two months, the thought of criminals profiting from her disease is sickening.
“I wish they could understand what it feels like to be a cancer patient, to take a drug and to suffer,” she said. “I’d do anything to stay alive, but I need the right medication.”