German pharmacies infiltrated by fake medicines?12-Aug-2010
Germany has been hit by a scandal in which dozens of pharmacies in the north of the country are under investigation for suspected involvement in the distribution of illegal medicines, including counterfeits.
The case suggests that far from being mainly a risk associated with purchase of medicines over the Internet, in some parts of Germany counterfeit and otherwise illegal drugs may be on pharmacy shelves and getting into the hands of patients.
Prosecutors have brought charges against one pharmacist from the Braunschweig region who is accused of handling €1.68m-worth and are investigating several others, according to a report by German business magazine Markt.
The affairs of other pharmacies in Hamburg, Celle, Verden and Kiel are also being probed, according to the report, which notes that the counterfeit goods being traded included not only lifestyle medicines such as impotency drugs and bodybuilding products, but also painkillers, antibiotics and cancer treatments.
Among the practices alleged to have been carried out by the pharmacists is compounding of medicines using illegally-acquired active ingredients.
Last year, Germany suffered other high-profile cases in which counterfeit versions of GlaxoSmithKline's Combivir (lamivudine and zidovudine) and Boehringer Ingelheim's Viramune (nevirapine) - both used to treat HIV infection. The fakes were discovered in the legal supply chain, Combivir in Bremen and Viramune on the island of Sylt in northern Germany.
Both cases forced the manufacturer to conduct product recalls in the interests of patient safety. On further analysis it was discovered that the tablets in the fakes were actually genuine although the primary and secondary packaging and labelling was all counterfeit.
The Markt report (in German) can be viewed here.
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