UAE authorities alert hospitals to faulty blood disease drug

The warning came after an investigation in Britain found vital medicines had been stolen, mishandled and resold by gangs in Europe

A packet of pills are pictured February 11, 2015 in Quimper, western of France.  AFP PHOTO FRED TANNEAU / AFP PHOTO / FRED TANNEAU
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Health officials issued a warning to hospitals over faulty and tainted medicines on Wednesday after criminal gangs were found to be reselling stolen drugs in Europe.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention singled out Soliris, the second most expensive drug in the world, which contains eculizumab, used to treat a rare hereditary blood disorder in children.

The drug is manufactured by Alexion Pharmaceuticals and is under registration in the UAE. The ministry said the fake drugs bear the codes (P0009403) and (1000308).

The yearly cost of the treatment is $409,000 (AED1.5m) per patient.

The warning came after a British investigation into potentially faulty drugs that were stolen from hospitals in Italy and sold to pharmacists in the UK and other countries.

Channel 4’s Dispatches programme found drugs including Soliris, along with prostate cancer treatment Casodex (bicalutamide) and the statin rosuvastatin, or Crestor, used by millions of patients with high cholesterol had been stolen and improperly handled by criminals, rendering them useless or faulty.

The British government’s drug watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said it was investigating how they entered the supply chain.

The medicines were genuine rather than counterfeit, but once they had spent time being handled improperly, not refrigerated or inappropriately stored, they are classed as ‘falsified’.

The UAE government is considering tougher laws to deter criminals from selling counterfeit medicine. Existing legislation for the pharma industry dates back more than 30 years to 1983.

Authorities said laws were in need of a substantial upgrade to keep pace with the strides made in the development of medicine.