by Irina Popescu
Italian investigators discovered that an organized crime group, with connections to Romania, is behind the distribution of stolen and counterfeit cancer drugs in Western Europe, stated an Italian official, cited by the Wall Street Journal.
The European Medicines Agency warned in mid-April that vials of Herceptin, produced by Roche Holding AG, had re-emerged, contaminated, in the UK, Germany and Finland, after being stolen in Italy. Alimta and Remicade drugs produced by Eli Lilly & Co. have also been stolen.
An investigation determined that these incidents weren’t isolated but the work of highly organized networks, said Domenico Di Giorgio, director for the prevention of counterfeiting at the pharmaceutical watchdog Italian Medicines Agency.
The group seems to implicate Camorra, an Italian organized-crime syndicate originating from Naples, and Eastern European networks, which include a Russian citizen based in Cyprus.
“Organized crime is certainly involved; it’s a central structure apparently based in Italy that commissions thefts of medicines in hospitals,” Di Giogio said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
The drugs were stolen from hospitals or distribution trucks in Italy and transferred to a licensed Italian wholesaler, according to a person familiar with the investigation. That wholesaler received invoices for the drugs from fake wholesalers in Hungary, Romania and Latvia, and from Italy the drugs were sold in other European countries. The entire story here.