Fake Medications in Medical Offices
In the past two years, fake doctors were convicted of vitally
endangering the lives of patients who submitted to counterfeit treatments. Patients can keep themselves safe from fake doctors by checking the validity of their physician’s license with the state medical board. But patients can’t use proof of a valid physician’s license to protect themselves when real doctors administer fake medications. In the same time period, while two fake doctors were convicted of administering fake drugs to patients, three real doctors were convicted of the same crime.
Fake Doctors – Fake Medications
In the past two years, fake doctors pleaded guilty of vitally
endangering the lives of patients who submitted to counterfeit treatments. In San Diego, both Kurt Donsbach and Kathleen Helms independently pretended to be naturopaths who advertised cures from cancer and lyme disease, respectively. In both cases, their treatments were fake and deadly. Donsbach gave desperate cancer and arthritis patients
heavy doses of medications labeled “neuropeptides” that instead contained dangerous steroids, damaging their vital organs and doing nothing to cure their diseases. Helms administered IV doses of unapproved medications to her unwitting patients, landing at least one permanently disabled and unable to live unattended.
However patients can keep themselves safe from fake doctors by checking the validity of their physician’s license with the state medical board. But patients can’t use proof of a valid physician’s license to protect themselves when real doctors administer fake medications. In the same time period, while two fake doctors pleaded guilty in cases of administering fake drugs to patients, three real doctors pleaded guilty in similar cases.
Real Doctors – Fake Medications
Dr. Isabella Martire, Dr. Abid S. Nisar and Dr. William Kincaid have all pleaded guilty in cases involving the distribution of misbranded and adulterated cancer medication to patients. In February 2012, the Food and Drug Administration began publicly issuing warnings to doctors that their medicine distributors had been found selling counterfeit cancer drugs. So far, over 100 doctors in 33 states have been warned by the FDA about the discovery of counterfeit versions of the cancer treatment bevacizumab, and other medications. Because this treatment is only administered in a clinic setting, patients may have been exposed to this fake drug by their physicians’ offices.
The FDA issued its warnings after counterfeit versions of the lifesaving cancer drug had been identified by tests. The counterfeit drug contained no active ingredients and traces of ten substances, including starch, salt and the solvent acetone, used to remove paint and nail polish.
The suppliers, Ban Dune Marketing, Montana Healthcare Solutions (also known as Quality Specialty Products), and Bridgewater Medical, among others, enticed physicians with unreasonably discounted prices via fax, and at least three doctors bought medication that was inauthentic and potentially
dangerous to patients. One supplier and three doctors have been successfully prosecuted in related cases, so far. Dr. Martire pleaded guilty to introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce and seeking reimbursement from private and government health insurance. The owner of Ban Dune marketing, James Newcomb, pleaded guilty to supplying misbranded medication to Dr. Nisar, who in turn pleaded
guilty of introducing misbranded prescription drugs into interstate commerce. And then in November, a Tennessee doctor, William Kincaid, pleaded guilty to knowingly purchasing misbranded cancer drugs
from another supplier mentioned in the FDA warning letters, Quality Specialty Products, and admitted in testimony that he and his office manager hid the medication from clinic nurses after they began to question the provenance of the drugs.
Unfortunately patients must be alert to the threat of misbranded medication. Tom Kubic, President
and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, reminds patients to be direct with their healthcare providers and to ask about the origins of the medications they receive, especially if they come directly from the physician’s office. Patients should ask about the provenance of the medication, and ask to see the package before submitting to treatment.
Said Kubic, “How could a patient have known that the medication was fake? The chemotherapy drug is a clear liquid, so no patient with an IV in his arm would have known what ingredients were in the IV. However a cursory look at the box the medications came in would have immediately revealed peculiarities that should
have raised alarms. Even if the patient had never seen the box before, the French and Arabic lettering on the package was a dead give-away that something was wrong!”
Given that many popular treatments are given in medical offices, range from chemotherapy to botox, patients need to be aware of the risk of receiving falsified and dangerous medications. Dr. Bryan Liang, Executive Director and E. Donald Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Health Law, at the Institute of Health Law Studies at California Western School of Law urges patients to use common sense and keep records.
“First, if the price is too good to be true, walk away. Second, examine the bottle being used in your treatment. Ensure that it hasn’t been used, isn’t expired and that it’s labeled correctly.”
The moment that patients have misgivings about a treatment, including concerns about a change in taste, effect or appearance, they should discuss the medication with both their doctors and pharmacists, and keep careful records of treatments, dosages, and symptoms.
Doctors, nurses and pharmacists can educate themselves on medication safety and authenticity with the Partnership for Safe Medicines LEADERs guides. The LEADERs guides are simple to follow guidelines tailored for medical professionals that can teach healthcare professionals how to protect their patients from counterfeit drugs.
Stay tuned for The Year In Review Part 2 – Diversion, Black Market and Internet Crime.