Drug regulators are warning of the possibility that knockoffs of a key cancer medicine may have found their way into the Indonesian market.
Endang Woro Tedjawati, director of medicine evaluation and biological products at the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM), said on Friday that her office was looking into reports that fake versions of Avastin were now available in Indonesia after cropping up in the United States.
“We’re still in the process of tracking down the reports, so we can’t say for certain yet whether this fake cancer drug is already in Indonesia,” she said.
Avastin, the trade name for the drug Bevacizumab, is produced by Roche and commonly used to treat breast, lung, kidney and colorectal cancers that have reached the metastatic phase and are spreading to other organs.
Endang said that although the BPOM has not yet found fake cancer drugs being distributed in the country, counterfeit versions of drugs to treat illnesses such as malaria were already available.
She said the most common knockoffs were those for the popular erectile dysfunction drugs, as well as for the painkiller Ponstan (mefenamic acid) and various medicines to lower cholesterol. Most are openly sold in markets or by mobile vendors.
Last year, the BPOM found only eight types of knockoff drugs in the Indonesian market, down from 28 in 2008.
Endang denied that the BPOM was not serious about cracking down on counterfeit drugs, saying that officials routinely carried out stings against dealers in addition to raids on drugstores.
She added that while the BPOM could censure legitimate pharmaceutical companies for producing fake drugs, it was powerless to take legal action against any perpetrators that it found.
“That’s the responsibility of the police and courts,” she said.
She attributed the continued presence of fake drugs in the country to the lack of strong sentences against the perpetrators, which would act as a deterrent.