Taipei (Taiwan News)—Prosecutors found common drugs used in Taiwan to treat high cholesterol and diabetes were being counterfeited by a criminal group in the mountainous regions of Xizhi District in New Taipei City, Tuesday.
In addition to counterfeiting the cholesterol medication rosuvastatin for treating high blood pressure, the group also made fake Januvia—a blood-sugar lowering drug commonly prescribed to Type-2 diabetic patients—and other cholesterol medications Vytorin and Livalo, according to a UDN report.
The fake Crestor pill can be seen above and the authentically manufactured drug below. (CNA)
Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was first alerted by a pharmacist in New Taipei City last month that a batch of rosuvastatin, or marketed as Crestor, manufactured by global biotechnology company AstraZeneca in October 2016 had been counterfeited.
The FDA asked hospitals and pharmacies to immediately recall drugs with the serial number MV503 last Sunday, the FDA confirmed Tuesday another batch of the drugs with the serial number of MK479 had also been counterfeited.
About 200,000 boxes of Creston are sold every month in Taiwan, and AstraZeneca agreed that consumers can return the drugs at pharmacies where they purchased it in exchange for new pills made in the UK, said FDA chief Wu Shou-mei (吳秀梅).
The drug is one of the most popular medications prescribed to patients with high cholesterol in Taiwan, according to data compiled by the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA), with 570,000 people taking the drug, and NT$2.3 billion (US$ 74.1 million) spent on the drug each year.
Januvia and Vyotorin in its normal packaging. (CNA)
Prosecutors also found knock-offs of two blockbuster drugs manufactured by Merck Sharp & Dohme (I.A.) Corp. (MSD); Januvia for diabetic treatment, and lipid-lowering drug Vytorin.
Januvia is an effective drug for lowering Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4) in blood sugar levels, and is widely prescribed to patients with diabetes in Taiwan, said Tsai Shih-Tse (蔡世澤), chief director of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Department of Medicine at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
MSD stated it hopes prosecutors can clarify the serial number and volume of pills affected by the drug counterfeiting case.
Livalo manufactured by Japanese pharmaceutical Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Group’s subsidiary Taiwan Tanabe Seikayu, was another drug that prosecutors found at the site.
In response, FDA official Chih Lan-hui (遲蘭慧) , said the new drugs listed in media reports remained unconfirmed, and that New Taipei City prosecutors were still investigating the case.