The Turkish police department announced they had made a significant discovery pertaining to the counterfeiting of certain medications, some of which are used as cancer treatments. As a result, 56 individuals have been arrested and the counterfeit drugs were identified as being exported to the United States as part of an organized crime ring. Among those arrested were 5 health care workers accused of facilitating the entry of the drugs into hospitals for use on patients. Turkish police have stated that they are still searching for two doctors accused of the same crime.
This is not the first time counterfeit drugs from Turkey make it into the U.S. In 2012, counterfeit versions of Avastin were reportedly being exported to the States.
According to police reports, the department carried out a raid on a Bağcılar district printing house, believed to be the location where the drugs were being manufactured. The organized crime ring gained money by counterfeiting medications in two ways. Some drugs were fake versions of medications that were manufactured and exported abroad, while other drugs were real, but expired and repackaged and exported as new medications.
According to reports, a total of 95 patients in Turkey received treatment with these cancer drugs and their health was said to have drastically worsened under this treatment.
The drugs were initially identified by a nurse at Sisli Etfal Education and Research Hospital, a state-run facility, after the nurse noticed discrepancies in the packaging of the counterfeit drugs that differed from previous versions of those drugs. The nurse checked the registration of the drugs against their expiration and found discrepancies in the data prompting the facility to send the drugs to the manufacturer of the original versions of the medications. After testing the drugs, the manufacturer issued a communication stating that the drugs were counterfeit.