Counterfeit Cancer Drugs Distributed to Americans Contain Acetone, but no Active Ingredient

It’s not something we generally think about; when we as consumers head to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription medication, we assume that the product we purchase is not only what we expect it to be, but also is reasonably safe. But that’s not always what happens, according to a recent report by MSNBC, detailing the fact that counterfeit versions of the popular cancer drug Avastin were distributed to customers.

A Chicago personal injury attorney will attest that Illinois products liability law dictates that when corporations manufacture a product, especially in cases of pharmaceutical production, they have a responsibility to test that product to ensure its safety and effectiveness before the product is put on the market and sold to consumers. This is especially true for companies that produce medicine, and whose products must undergo extensive testing before they are distributed to consumers. When a company makes a product that is flawed and that product harms the person using the product, the company may be held legally responsible for the customer’s injuries. Nevertheless, the imitation Avastin doses contain a variety of chemicals, but not the active ingredient found in the genuine drug.

Avastin – the genuine variety – is a drug produced by Hoffmann-La Roche AG, an international drug-manufacturing conglomerate that is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Hoffmann-La Roche sells Avastin in 120 countries and manufactures and packages the drug at eight sites worldwide. Avastin works to block the growth of new blood vessels, and is commonly used to treat various types of cancers, including lung-, breast-, and kidney-cancer. It was originally approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat certain metastatic cancers, and though its approval was revoked in November of 2011, doctors are still allowed to prescribe it.

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the source of counterfeit Avastin imported and distributed by a U.S. wholesaler to doctors here, but according to MSNBC, an analysis of the contents of the fake Avastin vials showed traces of 10 substances, ranging from starch and salt to solvent chemicals like acetone, which is used in paint thinner and otherwise has no medical or pharmaceutical use. But none of the active ingredient used to treat cancer was in the vials.

More specifically, Hoffmann-La Roche AG, Avastin’s manufacturer, said in a publically-released statement that none of the imitation products includes the active ingredient found in Avastin, a protein-based drug infused at hospitals and doctors’ offices, and that “the counterfeit product is not safe or effective and should not be used.”

When the US Food and Drug Administration’s investigation reveals the company responsible for importing and disseminating the counterfeit drug, that company may be held responsible for the harm it has caused by distributing the fake drugs to consumers.

Illinois product liability law is an area of personal injury law that focuses on dangerous and defective products; it is the area of law in which manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and others who manufacture and disseminate goods to the public are held responsible for the injuries caused by those products. “Products” in this instance covers a wide range of categories, including medical devices and pharmaceuticals. As it pertains to this case, the distributer of the counterfeit drugs would be liable for damages caused by those injuries.

Our Chicago personal injury lawyers represent victims across Illinois in matters against companies that have sold or manufactured unsafe products to consumers. In fact, our attorneys brought a case against Orion Research Inc. and Baxter Health Care Corporation for a flawed test for the genetic disease cystic fibrosis. The failures of the test led a set of parents to have a second cystic child. While recovering a substantial settlement for the family, the firm and the family were more concerned with the discontinuation of the test. As a result of our efforts, the test was eliminated.

If you’ve had an incident with a product that caused an injury, or are the survivor of someone who may have died from the use or exposure to a dangerous or defective product, contact an attorney to better understand your rights under the law. You may be entitled to compensation for your suffering.

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