Almost exactly one month ago, we talked about one of the more serious counterfeit labeling scares the pharmaceutical industry has seen in a while. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that there were at least 19 medical centers and hospitals across the country that had received phony versions of the commonly administered cancer drug Avastin.
The drug's packaging was significantly different than the genuine product, as it was not only written in a different language, it also incorrectly listed the name of the medicine's manufacturer, rather than the biotech lab that the authentic labels include. As is the worry with most bootleg medication, the fake Avastin didn't contain the active ingredient that helps patients with their illness.
Just last week, CNN sat down with FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg to see how the investigation into the incident is progressing and what it means for the industry.
The good news, for now, is that no patients that received the fake Avastin have been harmed, she said. However, she added that it's certainly "a wake-up call" for authorities to be sure that they're on top of keeping drug supplies safe. Hamburg explained that the FDA, law enforcement and the health care industry are all working hard to do so, but more needs to be done.
"I'm very eager to work with Congress," she told the news outlet. "They're considering some legislation that would give the FDA stronger authority and stiffen the rules around counterfeit drugs, and make it easier for us to really track drugs in the system, and enable us to quickly pull inadequate drugs."
Hamburg said that 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients used in America and 40 percent of finished drugs distributed here are imported from other countries. Because of this, drug shortages – a problem the United States is currently facing – open the doors to counterfeit medicines.