The Arizona Republic has reported that Executive Director Shabbir Safdar, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge Doug Coleman, and Phoenix-area pharmacist Randle House met with U.S. Senator Martha McSally in Arizona on August 8th to seek her assistance and support for efforts to protect the U.S. prescription drug supply from counterfeit medication.
The group discussed the breath of the counterfeit drug problem in the United States, the ease with which counterfeit pills can enter the US and the safety risks to patients from purchasing form non-FDA approved sources.
Mr. Safdar described for Senator McSally how quickly fentanyl has become such a scourge in the United States; "As of today, the crisis has been so fast to spread. We found and documented counterfeit pills in 48 states, and they've killed people in 33."
Sheriff Lamb warned, "We see pills all the time that could easily pass for a prescription pill coming right out of a pharmacy." His department has commonly discovered 20,000-to-30,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in a single traffic stop along the I-10 corridor.
Mr. Safdar also described how counterfeit Adderall made with methamphetamine is a real concern and has already been found in some communities.
He shared with Senator McSally the story of Arizona resident Betty Hunter, who died in 2011 of lung cancer, but had suffered a reaction to an Avastin treatment that was actually counterfeit. Ms. Hunter became feverish and nauseous during her treatment. Subsequent FDA testing of the Avastin she was treated with found it had no active ingredient, but was just water and mold.
"The only reason we know that Betty Hunter had a counterfeit cancer drug is because she had a reaction. The FDA went over to the office and grabbed a supply from the refrigerator and had it tested."
For her part, Senator McSally agreed that counterfeit drugs pose a danger to her constituents. She remarked, "There is a counterfeit industry out there. It could be deadly to you and your loved ones. And we've got to work together as a whole society to be able to stop it."