Path of Fake Avastin

The Wall Street Journal reports Ozay Pharmaceutical Co. in Istanbul as a source of counterfeit cancer medication that ended up in U.S. doctors’ offices. Two men who worked there, Ozkan Semizoglu and Sabahaddin Akman are currently charged with smuggling illicit cancer drugs into the United States.

A Turkish drug exporter is at the center of an investigation into how counterfeit cancer medication made its way into U.S. doctors’ offices, reports the Wall Street Journal. They say that Federal agents have traced the path of the counterfeit cancer medication back to a Turkish company called Ozay Pharmaceutical Co.

As a result of the investigation, two men involved with the operation of Ozay Pharmaceutical, Ozkan Semizoglu and Sabahaddin Akman are alleged to have imported the counterfeit cancer drugs into the United States, according to the FDA press release at the time of their indictment in St. Louis, Missouri.

The FDA alleges that “The defendants obtained the illicit drugs and then used shipping labels to conceal the illegal nature of the shipments, including customs declarations falsely describing the contents as ‘gifts,’ ‘documents,’ or ‘product samples’ with no or low-declared monetary values. They also broke large drug shipments into several smaller packages to reduce the likelihood of seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities.”

The Wall Street Journal identifies Ozay Pharmaceutical Co. as a 30 person operation that is family owned, and claims to ship medications and medical devices to over 70 countries. They further describe how counterfeit versions of the drug Avastin (branded Altuzan in Turkey) ended up being given to patients at Four Winds Hematology and Oncology, an Arizona clinic. One patient, Betty Hunter, experienced an extreme reaction to the infusion she received, in spite of having been given Avastin in the past without issue. After her subsequent death from late stage lung cancer, Federal investigators contacted her son to let him know that Ms. Hunter may have been treated with counterfeit Avastin.

At the Arizona clinic, reports the WSJ, agents “seized Altuzan vials supplied by Ozay via the U.K. distributor that turned out to be counterfeit, containing water and mold but none of the drug’s active ingredient.”

In 2013, FDA agents created a fake St. Louis based pharmaceutical distributor and ordered non-FDA-approved drugs from Semizoglu, receiving medicines with counterfeit packaging and with inadequate temperature protocol to insure quality, reports the WSJ.

The FDA credits Europol, and the German government offices of the Bonn prosecutor, Federal Criminal Police, Dusseldorf Police and German State Criminal Policy, special agents of the US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service in Ankara, Turkey and the US Consulate General’s Overseas Criminal Investigations Branch in Istanbul for bringing this case together.

To learn more about how counterfeit cancer medication has infiltrated the secure U.S drug supply chain, please download Black Market Cancer Cases 2007-2013.

By S. Imber