Betty Hunter’s Death Illustrates Danger of Fake Drugs

Arizona resident Betty Hunter died of lung cancer, but how much longer would she have lived if her oncologist had not treated her with counterfeit Avastin?

A recent Danish documentary tells the tragic story of Arizona grandmother Betty Hunter, who in 2011 sought treatment for her lung cancer at an oncology clinic in Chandler Arizona. In the documentary, “Lethal Fake Medicine / Medicin der Dræber” FDA-OCI Special Agent Dan Burke describes what happened to Ms. Hunter:

“This is a case involving counterfeit Avastin, which is a cancer medication. That case really started with a victim, a woman by the name of Betty Hunter. She went into an oncology clinic and had a reaction to the Avastin. And we come to find out it wasn’t Avastin at all, it was labeled Altzuan, which is a Turkish version, and we found out that it did not contain the active pharmaceutical ingredient. It contained tap water and mold.”

Special Agent Burke went into greater detail about Betty Hunter’s experience that day at her oncology office at the 2014 Interchange: “Betty Hunter was a lung cancer patient. Ms. Hunter went to Four Winds Hematology and Oncology in Chandler Arizona for an infusion of which she believed was Avastin, a drug she had taken previously. Soon after the infusion began, Ms. Hunter began to shake and become nauseous and feverish. The nurse reported in her chart ‘patient complaining of feeling very jittery and shaking and appeared to be red in face. Doctor notified and infusion stopped.”

Ms. Hunter’s son, Chris Lehan, described for Fake Drugs Can Kill what their experience was like during Ms. Hunter’s treatment with fake drugs:
“Then our mom had a reaction and got sick during the infusion of medication. She had received multiple doses of this medication and it was never a problem. This particular day she developed chills, vomiting, cramping, a spike in her fever.”

“The nurse who was in charge of the infusion, she called the drug supplier in Canada to find out what they were supposed to do because they had never seen this before. That’s how that phone call got made, that’s how the FDA got wind of our mom getting medications, they had tapped the phones of this supplier in Canada. The FDA raided the doctor’s office two weeks later. They confiscated the medications off the shelf, which they determined was water and mold. The doctor was informed that she had purchased counterfeit drugs. Our mom was still alive. Still seeking treatment from the doctor. But no-one told anybody anything.”

Betty Hunter’s dreadful experience with fake cancer medication was responsible for the eventual prosecution of the Turkish suppliers who provided the fake Avastin. In January 2014, Ozkan Semizoglu and Sabahaddin Akman of Ozay Pharmaceuticals were sentenced to 30 months in prison for their role in delivering fake cancer drugs to illicit suppliers based in Canada.

Chris Lehan told Fake Drugs Can Kill about his concerns not just for his mother, but for all the other patients being treated at an oncology clinic supplying fake drugs, “Our mom got sick being given medication one day. If she hadn’t gotten sick from that drug, when she was given the counterfeit drugs, how many more times would people in that office received that drug? She (the doctor in question) had boxes and boxes of the counterfeit drugs.”

Betty Hunter died in 2011 of advanced stage lung cancer.