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Articles from June 2008

Woman dies after buying banned slimming pills on the internet

A young woman desperate to lose weight died in agony a day after taking a lethal dose of a banned fat-burning drug she bought over the internet. Selena Walrond, who weighed 15st and was 5ft 3in tall, was so obsessed with being slim that she took five times the recommended daily dose. Known as DNP or dinitrophenol, the drug has never been licensed in the UK and was banned in the US in 1938 due to its potentially lethal side-effects.

Miss Walrond, 26, had struggled with her weight for years and became so ashamed of her shape that she was afraid to leave her home in Croydon, South London. In desperation, she searched the internet for weight-loss drugs, stumbling upon DNP, which is used by bodybuilders and athletes to lose weight quickly by increasing their metabolic rate to burn calories.

But the yellow pills sent her heart-rate racing and her temperature soaring. The next day, Miss Walrond was found by her mother Anjennis feverish and sweating in a cold bath, desperately trying to cool down. She took her daughter to hospital as Miss Walrond became highly agitated. Medics tried to calm her down but eight hours later she had a fatal cardiac arrest. Yesterday her mother said: ‘I’ll never forget her yellow fingernails and skin – the drug was sweating out of her. Miss Walrond is thought to have bought the DNP from a Chinese website five days before her death last August. (27 June 2008, Daily Mail online)

Pharma chiefs tell EU to do more in fight against counterfeiters

Sanofi-Aventis Chairman, Jean-Francois Dehecq, has called on the European Union to introduce strong measures to tackle the growing threat of counterfeit drugs, including a ban on medicine repackaging and harsher penalties for the groups involved in these illegal activities. Mr Dehecq said, “it is time for Europe to act as the driving force in the fight against this deadly crime. He added that “organised crime gangs operating on an international scale and playing with human lives in the name of profit must be dismantled”.

This should be done through “determined action, systematic prosecution and appropriate sanctions (civil and penal)”, Mr Dehecq claimed. He went on to say that penalties in place in EU member states are “inadequate”, so “administrative and operational tools and resources are required for effective law enforcement”.

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) is demanding an EU ban on medicine repackaging, a harmonised Europe-wide identification system for medicines, as opposed to the 10 different ones that exist today and heavy penalties that should be enforced for those caught trafficking in counterfeits. The association also noted that internet pharmacies are still the main source of fake drugs and “better consumer education is necessary as to the importance of purchasing medicines exclusively from the legitimate supply chain”. (20 June 2008, PharmaTimes online)

Fake drugs a bitter pill for India

Whilst The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that 35% of the world’s total supply of fake drugs can be traced to India, a recent report by The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states that the figure is closer to 75%. OECD asserts that counterfeiters include medical professionals such as pharmacists and physicians, organised crime syndicates, bogus pharmaceutical companies, corrupt officials and terrorist organisations.

“A worrisome trend is that counterfeits are increasingly being detected as having entered the supply chain of some of the most regulated jurisdictions,” said the OECD.
This is not the first time the Indian government has come under attack for the unchecked manufacture and circulation of counterfeit drugs. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) has estimated that the annual rate of growth of the fake drugs market in India is 25% and worth US$34.9 billion. Typically, the Indian health ministry refutes this by saying that only some 8% of drugs in India are suspect.

In an attempt to find an accurate figure for the number of fake drugs which can be traced to their country, the Indian Drug Controller-General’s office will embark upon the world’s largest study to assess the size of the Indian fake drugs market. The study will document the testing of 31,000 samples of 61 drug brands from nine therapeutic categories covering medications to treat tuberculosis, allergies, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, malaria and other common ailments as well as preparations that contain multivitamins. (7 June 2008, Asia Times online)