TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Europe on Guard Against Bogus Internet Tamiflu 'Drugs'

Europe on Guard Against Bogus Internet Tamiflu 'Drugs'

Tom Armitage (
Wed, 21 Dec 2005 12:59:36 -0600

By Tom Armitage

The little white bottle claims to hold 75 milligrams of oseltamivir
phosphate -- the generic name for the flu drug Tamiflu.

But consumers hoping their purchases over the Internet will help them
survive a possible bird flu outbreak are being warned that rather than
Tamiflu they might simply be buying vitamin C.

U.S. authorities this week seized 51 packages of counterfeit Tamiflu,
a treatment for flu made by Roche Holding AG that governments have
stockpiled to ward off deadly avian flu.

Counterfeit versions of Tamiflu have also now cropped up in Britain
and the Netherlands, the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products,
Swissmedic, said on Wednesday.

"Initial laboratory tests have shown that the products contained
vitamin C instead of the active ingredient oseltamivir," Swissmedic
said in a statement.

The batches in question had been ordered over the Internet from
suppliers in the United States and Asia, it said.

A spokeswoman for Roche in Basel confirmed that there had been one
case reported in the Netherlands where someone bought a product
falsely claiming to be Tamiflu on the Internet.

"The product came in a strange bottle saying generic Tamiflu," the
spokeswoman said.

However, while Roche has entered into talks with various southeast
Asian countries and companies about producing generic versions of
Tamiflu, no officially sanctioned version of the drug has yet been

Swissmedic said that no bogus Tamiflu had made its way into the
official supply chain -- something Roche says would be very unlikely
anyway, given the security features included in its packaging.

Britain's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said it
had identified around 20 Internet sites that were illegally
advertising Tamiflu, four of them in the UK, and was analysing test
purchases from the sites for bogus ingredients.

Roche has repeatedly warned consumers not to buy the medicine over the
Web, not least because it requires a prescription from a doctor, but
also because you may not receive your medicine at all, or just some
bogus stuff.

An Internet search throws up scores of sites advertising generic
Tamiflu, alongside drugs purporting to be copycat versions of
impotence treatments Viagra and Cialis, as well as the sleeping pill

(additional reporting by Ben Hirschler in London)

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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