Pharma crime: news in brief

Orange capsulesMHRA actions, an FDA import alert, spurious antibiotics in Bangladesh, as well as fake Recormon and stolen Abbott drugs in the Philippines.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said it took action to close down more than 1,600 websites illegally advertising and selling medicines last year, with many of the medicines offered falsified, counterfeit or unlicensed. The agency's enforcement officers also seized illegal medicines with a value of more than £3m, mainly erectile dysfunction drugs and slimming products but also sleeping pills and antidepressants, with the most common countries of origin India and China. Also, over the last 12 months nearly 19,000 online videos were removed for illegally advertising medicines as part of a continuing collaboration with social media and auction sites such as YouTube, Amazon and eBay, noted the agency.

The US Food and Drug Administration has issued an import alert for a version of Eli Lilly's erectile dysfunction drug Cialis (tadalafil) that purports to come from an Australian manufacturing facility and on analysis has been found to contain both tadalafil and sildenafil, the active ingredient in Pfizer's rival ED product Viagra. The import alert suggests it is an unapproved drug, but Lilly has confirmed it does not have a production plant in Australia - making Cialis or indeed any other drug - so has concluded the suspect product must be falsified.

A court in Bangladesh has jailed the owner and head of production at a local Ayurvedic medicines company - Mirpur-based Shed Pharmaceuticals (Av) Ltd - for producing counterfeit versions of a rival company's pharmaceutical product, reports the Daily Star newspaper. The two men were convicted along with four other workers of producing at least 300,000 spurious copies of Square Pharmaceuticals' Zimax (azithromycin) 500mg tablets, a commonly-used antibiotic, over the last two years. In addition to two years in jail, the owner and manager were also fined 100,000 Taka (around $1,275) each and their manufacturing facility has been shut down. Square Pharma is one of the biggest domestic drugmakers in Bangladesh and has been operating since the 1950s.

The Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that a counterfeit version of Roche's red blood cell stimulator Recormon (epoetin beta) - used to treat anaemia associated with chronic renal failure - has been discovered circulating in the country. Roche's subsidiary in the Philippines first identified the fakes and warned the FDA they had reached the market. According to the drugmaker, the label of the genuine product is made of plastic material while the fake is made of paper, and the counterfeits bear the batch number H0029H09. Genuine products from that batch have an expiry date of June 2013, but the fakes indicate they expire in June 2015.

Meanwhile, the Philippines FDA has also issued an alert to the public about a shipment of medicines that was stolen from a cargo truck in that country, including vitamins and anti-epileptic product. The alert indicates the products were shipped by US pharmaceutical company Abbott and includes Cecon (ascorbic acid) chewable tablets, Iberet-Folic 500 multivitamins and the epilepsy drug Epival (divalproex sodium). More information is available here

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