by Amanda Watts, CNN
The biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences announced Wednesday a massive web of seizures across several states of “counterfeit and tampered Gilead HIV medication within the U.S. supply chain.”
In a statement on its website, Gilead said “in coordination with the US Marshals and local law enforcement, Gilead has executed seizures at 17 locations in nine states, seizing thousands of bottles of Gilead-labeled medication with counterfeit supply chain documentation.”
Over the course of a two-year investigation, “evidence showed that the distributor defendants sold 85,247 bottles” of the counterfeit drugs, according to the statement.
The bottles were labeled Biktarvy and Descovy, two popular medicines to help treat HIV-1.
An ongoing investigation “revealed that pharmaceutical distributors not authorized by the company to sell Gilead medicine were selling drugs to pharmacies that they sourced from various fly-by-night entities as part of the illegal counterfeiting scheme.”
In August of 2021, Gilead warned of the counterfeits, issuing a consumer alert at the time.
In court documents, which were filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in July of 2021, Gilead asked that the court bar certain distributors from “selling any Gilead medication, whether genuine or counterfeit.” Additionally, it is asking that the defendants cease “falsely representing themselves as being connected with Gilead or sponsored by or associated with Gilead.”
The complaint, which was unsealed by a judge on Tuesday, alleged in one glaring example that “the tablets inside those bottles were not Gilead’s HIV medication. They were completely different drugs.”
An outside laboratory tested the medicines and allegedly found “the most common contents of the tested counterfeits was quetiapine furmarate, a non-Gilead… prescription anti-psychotic medication with a number of known serious side effects,” the complaint says.
Attempts by CNN to reach attorneys for the defendants were unsuccessful.
Gilead warned about the dangers of using counterfeit medicine. “Counterfeit and tampered medicines can result in serious and or life-threatening health risks,” it said, adding that “They are not equivalent in quality, safety, and/or efficacy to genuine medicines.”
“Patient safety is our first priority, and our actions were instrumental in removing counterfeit HIV medications from the U.S. supply chain and protecting individuals who rely on our medications,” Lori Mayall, head of anti-counterfeiting and brand protection at Gilead Sciences, said in a statement. “Based on our actions, we believe that we have successfully stopped these defendants from distributing additional counterfeit versions of Gilead medication to patients.”
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