Customs Agents Seize Counterfeit Bird Flu Drug

Associated Press
Monday, December 19, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 18 -- Customs agents have intercepted more than 50 shipments of counterfeit Tamiflu, the antiviral drug being stockpiled in anticipation of a bird flu pandemic, marking the first such seizures in the United States, authorities said Sunday.

The first package was intercepted Nov. 26 at an airmail facility near San Francisco International Airport, said Roxanne Hercules, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Agents have since seized 51 packages, each containing as many as 50 counterfeit capsules labeled generic Tamiflu.

The fake drugs had none of Tamiflu's active ingredients, and officials were testing the contents of the capsules. Initial tests indicated some vitamin C in the capsules, said David Elder, director of the Food and Drug Administration Office of Enforcement. Information on the packages was written in Chinese, but it is unclear where the drugs originated, he said.

They were sent by Asian suppliers to customers who placed orders over the Internet, Hercules said. She said none of the shipments intercepted was bound for doctors or hospitals.

Agents became suspicious because Tamiflu is produced by Swiss pharmaceutical manufacturer Roche, and no generic version is available.

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