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Illegal COVID-19 drugs are being smuggled through the US: REPORT

Harry Wilmerding, DCNF

Federal authorities have seized over 100 illegal shipments containing a COVID-19 treatment drug over the last few months, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted the shipments at New York and Texas airports, which contained doses of the COVID-19 antiviral drug remdesivir, after arriving from Bangladesh and India to be smuggled into Mexico, according to the WSJ. The agency reportedly handed the investigation off to Department of Homeland Security agents who are testing to see if the shipments contain fake or generic versions of the antiviral drug, the WSJ reported.

Both counterfeit and generic versions of remdesivir are illegal in the U.S. and Mexico, and the investigation is ongoing, the WSJ reported.

U.S. authorities have seized more than 100 shipments of unauthorized versions of the Covid-19 remdesivir treatment bound for Mexico, as the government seeks to stamp out criminal activity related to the pandemic https://t.co/KF4GqGprBs

— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) June 23, 2021

“You’ve got to remember if you don’t have ready access to a vaccine and your healthcare system is at risk of collapse, you will try anything,” Shabbir Safdar, executive director of Partnership for Safe Medicines, told the WSJ.

Remdesivir was approved in Mexico in March and has been in high demand ever since, according to the WSJ.

Gilead manufactures remdesivir, which the Food and Drug Administration approved in October 2020, the WSJ reported. The company has been working with international law enforcement agencies to crack down on smuggling fake or generic versions of remdesivir.

Gilead has issued licenses for the drug to be distributed in over 100 countries as part of an effort to increase access to the treatment in developing countries, the WSJ reported. But the company has reportedly battled with counterfeit producers

“We caution against sourcing Gilead medicine from outside the approved and regulated supply chain, hospitals or pharmacies and will continue to support U.S. law enforcement in taking appropriate actions to protect patients,” the company said according to the WSJ.

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