The usual suspects did not lead the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency’s list of top counterfeit products last year—not designer bags, not athletic shoes, not iPhones and other i-stuff. Instead, the list was topped by counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
Counterfeit medicines are more common today than ever before. We have documented their rise and the associated safety concerns. USA Today reports that the CBP seized 200% more counterfeit pharmaceuticals in 2011 than they did in 2002. In the same article, Therese Randazzo, CBP’s intellectual property rights director, warns, “There’s demand, and it’s gotten easier and easier to copy [pharmaceutical products] and to sell them over the Internet.”
The Men’s Health Network and the Partnership for Safe Medicines put together what we think is a smart and highly informative infographic to show men and the women who love them where the dangers lie. It details the various types of counterfeit drugs and warns how to avoid them by using a reputable pharmacist certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The infographic was prepared as part of a campaign for National Men’s Health Week (June 11-17) as well as World Anti-Counterfeiting Day (June 7th).
Although the issue of counterfeit drugs has long been treated as a criminal matter of intellectual property infringement, it also nothing short of a public health crisis. Counterfeit and substandard pharmaceuticals are not just duping consumers—they are taking lives.
"He told everyone to lie on the floor," Pharmacist Frank Wong told The Associated Press. "Everyone was panicking. We never saw things like this before."
It happened on Thursday, April 12, after two men, one brandishing a gun had entered a New York City pharmacy on First Avenue at East 119th Street, and demanded Oxycontin and Percocet, two addictive painkillers. Six customers, including an infant, and three employees inside the store, were ordered to lie behind the the counter while Wong began gathering the drugs.
Minutes later, one of the attackers was dead, fatally shot, by two bullets from a police revolver. The attack and its aftermath are shown in this police surveillance video released to the public.
Three patrol officers, already outside the pharmacy after a separate 911 call are seen in a surveillance video with guns drawn, telling the suspects to come out with their hands up. One man, dressed in grey sweats and a black sweat shirt, came out and was grabbed by an officer, but Wyatt came out with his gun drawn.
Wong told a Wall Street Journal reporter that this was the first time the pharmacy had been held up in 25 years but he'd been aware of a rash of other drug store robberies around the area, including one just a few days ago in the same neighborhood. "It's gotten so crazy," he said.
A brutal string of pharmacy attacks in the New York area included one in Medford, Long Island last Father's Day, that claimed four lives. Nationally, according to the New York Times, pharmacy robberies skyrocketed by 79% in 2011. Many have involved addicts desperate to steal so-called "super pain-killers" like Oxycodone and Oxycontin.
Applied DNA Sciences is working with pharmacists on Long Island to show how its smartDNA anti-intruder spray can be one tool in the effort to defend against the rising tide of similar attacks. The spray unit is mounted at exits in a pharmacy, spraying a fleeing criminal with a solution mixing water with an indentifying mark derived from plant DNA. The system is seen as a law enforcement technology which can powerfully help to deter crime.
At a press conference in February, New York State Senator Kemp Hannon said of the system: “This new state-of-the-art technology will provide yet another tool to aid in the prevention of crimes, and will assist law enforcement in the apprehension and convictions of those who perpetrate them,” Senator Hannon said. “You can track the person who is robbing. So it improves security, and is almost invisible.”
Senator Hannon is working on a broad initiative attacking the roots of the sharp increase in pharmacy crime, including better awareness of security best practices among pharmacies, treating the problem of addiction, and on other fronts. At Applied DNA Sciences, a company with strong roots in our Long Island community, we support all-round efforts to stem the problem such as this, and hope we can contribute to a solution.
On March 20, police in several European cities seized almost 300,000 doses of counterfeit medicines, including the anti-impotence drugs Viagra and Cialis, and anti-obesity drugs rimonabant and sibutramine. The latter raised fears of a particular danger since these drugs were withdrawn from the European market in 2009. European authorities cited risks of dangerous psychological side effects, including suicidality. The drug was never approved for sale in the United States.
In the United Kingdom, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reported that four people were arrested in Spain and two in Britain culminating an international police operation that lasted several months.
Most of the fake drugs were sold over the Internet.
The seizure highlighted a sharply increasing volume of counterfeit drugs in Europe. As recently as 2005, seizures at all European borders for the year totaled just over a half million articles, according to the pan-European news site EurActive.com. The March seizures this year by themselves amount to about 60% of the entire 2005 haul.
Perhaps not coincidentally, just after the European operation was announced, the U.S. authorities discovered a second wave of counterfeit Avastin (Bevacizumab), an important anti-cancer drug. The fake Avastin, which included starch, salt, and in some cases a solvent used for nail polish remover, was imported into the U.S. by a U.K. company, Richards Pharma. Reuters reported that the Avastin discovery “shocked” the industry since it showed “criminals moving into the business of faking complex injectable drugs.” In developed countries, much of the counterfeit trade has targeted simple pills.
The appearance in the U.S. of a counterfeit—and medically useless—version of the anti-cancer drug Avastin seems to be spreading. In aSafety Information Alert, issued on Tuesday, April 3, the Federal Drug Administration announced that it has uncovered fake injectable vials of Bevacizumab, marketed in the U.S. as Avastin. The counterfeit drug, the FDA stated, which was found at unnamed “medical practices”, was said to contain “no active ingredient,” and carried the brand name used for Avastin in Turkey: Altuzan.
The Tuesday announcement stated that “packaging or vials found in the U.S. that claim to be Roche’s Altuzan with lot number B6021 should be considered counterfeit.”
The fake drugs were imported into the U.S. by a company called Richards Pharma, also known as Richards Services, Warwick Healthcare Solutions, or Ban Dune Marketing Inc (BDMI). Importing Avastin is itself illegal, since the FDA allows only U.S.-manufactured Avastin to be sold in the country. (Genentech is the current producer in the U.S.) Speaking of the importer of the fake drug, the FDA stated: “Many, if not all, of the products sold and distributed through this distributor have not been approved by the FDA.”
Only two months ago, authorities revealed that a fake version of Avastin had been found at nineteen medical practices in the United States, citing a different distributor. In that case , the counterfeit version contained starch, salt, and in some cases, acetone. The latter is a solvent often used in nail polish remover. That time, a company calling itself Montana Healthcare Solutions was identified as the source of the illegally imported drug. CBS News interviewed the owner of Montana Healthcare Solutions at a residence in Barbados.
Doctors use Bevacizumab (Avastin) in combination with other chemotherapy to extend lives and quality of life for a large number of patients suffering from some of the most vicious of cancers.
The owner of a company which sold a counterfeited cancer drug, Avastin, to nineteen doctors and clinics in the United States claims the news is “shocking an disappointing.” Speaking from the Caribbean nation of Barbados, the man told CBS news "Because you buy these products through a regulated supply chain, you have to have faith."
The drug, which some researchers say “may change survival” for colon, lung, and rectal cancer victims, can only be sold in the United States by Genetech, at its U.S. facilities. But CBS news discovered that the fake drug was imported from abroad by a company called Montana Healthcare Solutions, from a company with the same name in the United Kingdom. Before reaching the U,K., in turn, it had traveled through Denmark and Switzerland. The drug sold here for about $2000, about $400 less than the manufacturer’s quoted price.
Reporter Armen Keteyian followed the drug’s trail back to a tough neighborhood outside Cairo, back to Turkey and beyond.
Doctors use Avastin in combination with other chemotherapy to extend lives and quality of life for a large number of patients suffering from some of the most vicious of cancers. The counterfeit vials, of which 36 found their way into U.S. medical practices, mostly contained nothing but starch, salt, and in some cases, acetone. The latter is a solvent often used in nail polish remover. At the very least, patients were receiving no therapy, when effective medications were a lifeline.
The owner of Montana Healthcare Solutions told CBS:
"I have nothing to hide. The businesses I have are ethical, safe and legal."
"You talk about safety," Keteyian said, "but according to you, 36 packets of the fake Avastin got into the U.S. to at least 19 clinics, into the hands of doctors and potentially patients, so how can it be so safe?"
"Because we followed protocol."
Said Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. "Counterfeit drugs is a huge problem in the United States. The estimates are that $75 billion worth of sales of counterfeit drugs occur annually."
The sister of John Capano, an ATF officer slain by friendly fire during a Seaford , Long Island pharmacy robbery, was in the audience. Hundreds more jammed into the Bethpage, LI Morrelly Homeland Security Center to show their determination to stop the string of murderous pharmacy robberies which have roiled this New York suburban area for months.
Capano was killed while wrestling with the deperate attacker. His funeral was held on January 6, at the at St. William the Abbot Church in Seaford. At the funeral, Capano's widow, Dori, and his children followed the casket, buglers played Taps, and as a final salute, eight helicopters performed a flyover.
Video via CBS Local
The Bethpage crowd yesterday included many pharmacists, and was addressed by Congressman Peter King, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, and others. People from our company, Applied DNA Sciences, were there, as were representatives from the office of State Senator Kemp Hannon.
The brutal string of pharmacy attacks in this area included one in Medford, Long Island last Father's Day, that claimed four lives. Nationally, according to the New York Times, pharmacy robberies skyrocketed by 79% in 2011. Many have involved addicts desperate to steal so-called "super pain-killers" like Oxycodone and Oxycontin.
As a Long Island firm, and a security products company, Applied DNA Sciences shares the community's sorrow and concern about this epidemic.
In the scary surveillance video below, a pharmacy worker in Manhattan finds himself looking into the barrel of a robber's gun, a robber who means business.
"Told us to 'get on the ground and he want some medications. Give me all your narcotics. Stay on the ground and don't look at me' ," said the worker at Health Source Pharmacy near 68th St. and Second Avenue in the center of New York City.
Like many in the string of brutal pharmacy attacks in New York and nationally in recent months, the target drug was a so-called "super-pain-killer," in this case Oxycodone, according to ABC News.
It was the pharmacy robbery was the third armed robbery in Manhattan in two weeks. Applied DNA Sciences, located in Long Island where many recent and fatal robberies have occurred, can help the community with its smartDNA product, which covers a fleeing criminal with a DNA-infused mist. The criminal is marked with a code that constitutes an an ID that will stand up in any court.
Below we include a clip of the robbery as released by the NYPD.