The antiviral drug Tamiflu has become a hot commodity on the legitimate pharmaceutical market and, now apparently, on the counterfeit drug market as well.
Since November 26, over 50 shipments of phony Tamiflu have been intercepted and seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at various locations including San Francisco International Airport. Each package seized contains up to 50 counterfeit capsules labeled as generic Tamiflu.
The seized capsules do not contain any of the active ingredients found in Tamiflu and laboratory tests are still being run to determine just what the capsules actually do contain. The FDA Office of Enforcement has indicated that preliminary tests show the capsules contained some amount of vitamin C.
Although some of the information on the seized packages was written in Chinese, the exact point of origin of the drugs themselves remains unclear. The shipments, however, came from Asian suppliers shipping to Internet purchasers. None of the shipments have been to hospitals or doctors.
Roche, the world’s 9th largest pharmaceutical company manufactures Tamiflu. The Swiss drugmaker’s Web site cautions against Internet purchases of the product.
Customs agents first realized there was a problem with the drugs because there is no generic version of Tamiflu. The agency had already anticipated the possibility of counterfeits once fears of a bird flu pandemic began to spread throughout the U.S.