Crime Wave Strikes Big Pharma; Novo, GSK and Bayer Targeted in Pill Heists

Last Updated Aug 27, 2009 11:51 AM EDT

A crime wave hit the drug business this summer: The FDA is warning people to be on the lookout for stolen vials of Novo Nordisk's Levemir; GlaxoSmithKline put out an advisory cautioning people not to take any of the Advair stolen from a facility in Richmond, Va.; and a survey by two research firms found that 80 percent of ads for pharmacies on Yahoo are illegal.

The heists come on the heels of an infamous July caper in which thieves in Germany stole $6.9 million worth of Levitra pills from Bayer's HQ. There's a €20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

In the Levemir case, the FDA says:

Evidence gathered to date suggests that the stolen insulin was not stored and handled properly and may be dangerous for people to use. FDA has received multiple reports of patients who suffered an adverse event due to poor control of glucose levels after using a vial from one of the stolen lots.
GSK also warns that stolen meds are unreliable meds:
Medicine in the stolen cartons could represent a health risk because it has been removed from the legitimate supply chain and the storage conditions under which the stolen products were held are unknown. Inhalers from these lots should not be dispensed, sold, or used.
As for the online Yahoo pharmacies, the self-regulatory system seems to have broken down, researchers say:
... the researchers acquired prescription drugs without a prescription from an Internet pharmacy approved by PharmacyChecker â€" the service by which Yahoo, Google and Microsoft require their Internet pharmacy advertisers to be verified as legitimate - and listed on PharmacyChecker.com.
Image by Flickr user Smoobs, CC.