WHO says fake cancer drug Iclusig has been “traded globally”

Falsified copies of leukaemia drug Iclusig are being traded around the world and have reached the patient level in Asian markets, says the World Health Organization.

Last month the WHO warned that counterfeit 15mg and 45mg packs of Iclusig (ponatinib) had been discovered by the Swiss health authorities and had also been found in Turkey and Argentina. Now, it says additional 45mg fakes have been found in Malaysia.

The new packs include some bearing the batch number PR072875 that are presented in English language packaging, and a German-language variant with the batch number PR0834170. Neither of the batch numbers is genuine, according to Iclusig’s manufacturers.

Iclusig (ponatinib) is used to treat adults with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and was developed by Ariad Pharma, now owned by Japanese drugmaker Takeda. It is produced and sold in Europe by Incyte Pharma under the terms of a deal signed with Ariad in 2016.

The manufacturer has already confirmed that the suspect packs found in Turkey, Argentina and Switzerland are falsified, and is currently testing the Malaysian samples. The tablets in the fake packs were found to contain paracetamol rather than ponatinib, so would have had zero therapeutic activity against cancer.

“WHO requests increased vigilance within the supply chains of countries likely to be affected by these falsified products,” said the organization in a statement.

“Increased vigilance should include hospitals, clinics, health centres, wholesalers, distributors, pharmacies and any other suppliers of medical products.

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