Turkish pharma director jailed for fake Avastin supply

Altuzan pack shotOzkan Semizoglu, the director of Turkish drug importer Ozay Pharmaceuticals, has been jailed for more than two years for his role is distributing fake cancer drugs.

According to the US Department of Justice, Semizoglu shipped: "counterfeit, misbranded, and adulterated cancer treatment drugs into the US, including multiple shipments of Altuzan (the Turkish brand for Roche's blockbuster oncology medicine Avastin) that he sent from Turkey to [the US state of] Missouri."

The DoJ has at his sentencing trial handed down a 27-month prison term for his role in selling the fake versions Avastin, as well as other counterfeit oncology products.

The sentence was largely expected after Semizoglu pled guilty to the crimes in his trial in August. According to the DoJ's indictment the defendants "shipped prescription drugs requiring constant cold temperatures in shipping boxes without insulation from Turkey to US."

Ozay Pharma logo"Defendants further shipped prescription drugs requiring constant cold temperatures in shipping boxes from Turkey to the US without any temperature protection whatsoever, or sometimes used only small freezer packs instead of dry ice inside the packages."

"Given the length of time to ship products from Turkey to the US, defendants were aware that on many occasions their packages of their prescription drugs arrived in the US at temperatures outside the constant cold temperature range discussed on the drugs' labelling."

And it was not limited to just one cancer drug as Semizoglu imported a large variety of cancer treatments into the US, including:

  • Lilly's Gemzar (gemcitabine) which is used to treat breast cancer, some types of lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer;
  • the chemotherapy agent Taxotere (docetaxel) which is used to treat breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, and head and neck cancer;
  • Sanofi's Eloxatin (oxaliplatin) which is used to treat colon cancer;
  • Novartis' Zometa (zoledronic acid), which is used to treat bone cancer, bone disease, and osteoporosis; and
  • Venofer (iron sucrose) which is used in the treatment of anaemia resulting from chronic kidney disease.

The DoJ says that some of these medicines, such as Avastin, did not actually contain any active ingredient at all.

Philip Walsky, acting director of the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI), said: "[This] sentencing marks a public recognition that we will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who violate the law and jeopardize public safety."

"National borders can no longer keep out criminal activity. As we did in this case, we will work with our international partners to protect US public health."

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