According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sending out a warning to physicians and their patients to beware of various versions of the drug Botox which are apparently counterfeit. The drugs were distributed by a “network of wholesalers controlled by Canada Drugs, an international supplier” whose companies have been linked previously to the distribution of some spurious cancer drugs. Early last year, the FDA warned physicians about a phony version of Avastin, the cancer medicine produced by Roche Holdings AG.
Canada Drugs is an Internet pharmacy which has succeeded in selling less expensive versions of medicines manufactured in foreign countries to American physicians and other customers. In the FDA’s book, what Canada Drugs does is considered illegal because whether the drugs are real or not, they are not FDA-approved, nor are they manufactured in FDA-inspected facilities. So far, the FDA has been unsuccessful in its attempt to close down Canada Drugs’ online store.
Meanwhile, Interpol, the international police organization, is now involved in a major crackdown on the sale and distribution of illicit medicines, with 27 drug companies cooperating and providing some funding for the effort. Patients receiving illicit medicines can incur serious harm, especially in the case of Botox, which is derived from the deadly Botulinum toxin and is to be used for cosmetic purposes, as well as for other medical conditions. Purveyors of phony Botox have received stiff prison sentences in the recent past.
With the number of spurious, contaminated, and just plain bad drugs reaching clinics and physicians this year, doctors and patients need to be extremely cautious about the origins of the medicines they are receiving. But is it not the FDA’s job to see that no one receives these drugs in the first place?