Fake cancer drug Avastin hits U.S. market for the second time

The FDA is alerting healthcare professionals that 120 vials of fake Altuzan - a cancer fighting drug - have entered the U.S. Armen Keteyian reports.

Second fake cancer drug enters U.S. supply
The FDA is alerting healthcare professionals that 120 vials of fake Altuzan - a cancer fighting drug - have entered the U.S.

(CBS News) Another batch of counterfeit cancer drugs have been discovered in the United States.

A batch of 120 vials of fake Avastin, labeled under its Turkish name Alzutan, was shipped through the U.K. from Turkey. The pattern mimics the first time phony Avastin was found in the U.S. in February.

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"What we're seeing is a pattern of this risky practice of purchasing unapproved drugs from foreign suppliers," Connie Jung, a pharmacologist with the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Drug Security, Integrity and Recalls, told CBS News.

Alzutan is a known Turkish version of the drug Avastin, but it is not approved for use in the U.S. Reuters said that authentic Alzutan has Turkish-language packaging, whereas the fake version had English-language packing. The batch number in question B6021.

The World Health Organization reported that the prevalence of fraudulent pharmaceuticals in industrialized countries is less than 1 percent of the market, but it is much higher in many African countries, parts of Asia, Latin America and countries in transition. They claim 50 percent of medicines purchased over the Internet from illegal sites that conceal their physical address have been proven to be counterfeit.

The FDA told healthcare professionals that this incidence of the sham pharmaceutical involved sending it through distributors in Britain, who purchased the drug from wholesalers in Turkey.

British authorities added U.K.-based Richard's Pharma Ltd. sent 38 packs directly to the U.S. Then, additional 82 of the counterfeit vials were shipped to the U.S. by River East Supplies, which is owned by Canadian businessman Tom Haughton.

Haughton is already under investigation from the first episode of fake drugs entering the country in February, and is accused of selling the drug for $2,000 a vial - $400 less than the manufacture's price. He previously told CBS News that he had nothing to hide and was not wrong for importing the drugs "The businesses that I have are ethical, safe and legal," he said.

"We're depending on the governments and regulators to make sure these supply chains are indeed safe. I will do everything within my power to ensure this never happens ever again," he added.

Neither Richard's Pharma nor Haughton responded to CBS News request for comment on this new case.

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