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Turkish company guilty of smuggling fake Avastin into US

Genentech is the licensed manufacturer for Avastin.
Genentech is the licensed manufacturer for Avastin.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Turkish nationale Sabahaddin Akman, owner of Ozay Pharnmaceuticals based in Istanbul has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, in St. Louis, MO to charges of smuggling misbranded and adulterated cancer treatment drugs into the United States. The news comes 8 months following his arrest in Puerto Rico by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations division, which coordinated an intricate, multi-layered international investigation conducted by Europol, several German government offices: the Bonn prosecutor; the Federal Criminal Police, the Dusseldorf police, and the German State Criminal Police. Special agents of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service assigned to the U.S. Embassy’s Regional Security Office in Ankara, Turkey, and the US Consulate General’s Overseas Criminal Investigations Branch in Istanbul, Turkey that identified Akman and his company as a source of Altuzan, the Turkish version of the cancer treatment drug Avastin.

Sabahaddin Akman, together with his employee, Ozkan Semizoglu, were found to have used fake shipping labels and falsified customs declaration papers declaring the illicit drugs “gifts” to smuggle them into this country, and were said to have “broken large drug shipments into several smaller packages to reduce the likelihood of seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” according Philip J. Walsky, acting director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.
“These criminals exploited our most vulnerable patients when they arranged for their illicit drugs to be brought into the United States and used to treat cancer patients. We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who prey on our ill, susceptible patients,” he continued. “We commend our colleagues – international, national, state, and local – whose contributions helped bring this case to a successful conclusion.”
Avastin (Bevacizumab) works by slowing the growth of new blood vessels. Manufactured byGenentech/Roche, it is licensed to treat various diseases cancers, including colorectal, lung, breast (outside the USA), glioblastoma (USA only), ovarian and kidney cancers, and was just approved by the FDA for use in combination with chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and cisplatin or in combination with paclitaxel and topotecan in the treatment of late-stage cervical cancer.