In February of this year, the FDA notified 19 cancer doctors that a counterfeit version of the cancer drug Avastin had breached the U.S.’s closed, secure drug supply chain. Now 5 months later, investigations have allegedly connected the counterfeit cancer drug’s entry into the US with one of Canada’s biggest online pharmacy operations, Canadadrugs.com.
The Wall Street Journal reports that “quarterly management reports detailing Canada Drugs’ operations” allegedly link Canada Drugs to subsidiary companies that procured and shipped the counterfeit cancer medication, including Montana Health Care Solutions, River East Supplies Ltd., Clinical Care, Quality Specialty Products, and Bridgewater Medical.
FDA officials have now warned 76 doctors in 22 states that they may have purchased counterfeit medication from these companies allegedly owned by Canada Drugs including Montana Health Care Solutions, a medical distribution company purchased by Canada Drugs in 2010, reports the Wall Street Journal.
In an effort to improve the safety of the U.S. drug supply chain, gray market suppliers have been the subject of recent U.S. Senate Commerce Committee investigation, conducted with The House Oversight Committee. Some gray market suppliers ostensibly buy drugs from manufacturers, then resell them to a series of secondary distributors, who then finally sell to doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals. The Senate report “Shining The Light on The ‘Gray Market” vilifies disreputable secondary market drug distributors for creating scarcity, price gouging, and compromising the safe, secure drug supply chain.
In addition to artifically increasing prices on medications by up to 1,200%, dishonest gray market distributors make it easy for counterfeit drug manufacturers to introduce fake drugs into the drug supply as the chain of secondary distributors grows. In the words of the joint-committee report, “counterfeit drugs are most likely to be introduced as part of a drug supply chain involving multiple wholesalers.”
In June, the CBC reported that calls to one of the U.S. based subsidiary companies linked to Canada Drugs, Montana Healthcare Solutions, were routed via exchange to the Canadadrugs.com call center in Winnepeg. At last count the FDA has sent warnings on the use of counterfeit Avastin to 76 doctors in 22 states.
Canada Drugs is linked to a second fake cancer drug discovery via Ban Dune Marketing Inc., owned by James R. Newcomb who pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute adulterated prescription drugs and was sentenced on June 29, 2012 to 41 months in prison. Ban Dune Marketing Inc. was implicated this year by the FDA in the distribution of a counterfeit version of Altuzan, which contained no active ingredients.
As Dr. Marv Shepherd, Chairman of the Pharmacy Administration Division at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy said in a recent op-ed piece for Partnership for Safe Medicines, “Unfortunately, many people are unaware that, in reality, these so-called “online pharmacies” are fraudulent, and often dispense counterfeit, substandard and tainted medicines to unsuspecting consumers.”
Greymarket drug sales, counterfeit medicines in the U.S.’s safe, secure drug supply chain and fake online drug sellers will be subjects that will be tackled in depth at the 2012 Interchange in Washington DC September 26th. Please join us!
By S. Imber