Testing revealed fake versions of Lipitor and other widely used prescription drugs ordered through Web sites linked to a Canadian pharmacy, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.
Consumers who bought drugs through the 10 Web sites should not use the medications because they may not be safe, the FDA said. The sites include rxnorth.com, canadiandrugstore.com and rxbyfax.com.
Prescriptions ordered through the sites are filled by Mediplan Prescription Plus Pharmacy, also known as Mediplan Global Health, according to the FDA and information posted on the sites.
U.S. officials have intercepted and seized thousands of prescriptions filled by the pharmacy in recent months, said FDA Associate Commissioner Randall Lutter. Subsequent testing has revealed counterfeit versions of the cholesterol drugs Lipitor and Crestor, as well as the painkiller Celebrex, blood-pressure medication Diovan, baldness treatment Propecia and five other prescription drugs, the FDA said.
"U.S. drug companies, along with the FDA, are really starting to target companies like ours. These allegations are completely false," said Andrew Strempler, the president and chief executive of Mediplan Global Health. Strempler added that his company regularly tests the drugs it sells, and that they are safe and reliable.
The FDA said its own tests showed some of the drugs contained the active ingredients found in genuine versions, but at lower concentrations. That could put patients at risk, Lutter said. The FDA testing is ongoing.
"We are investigating, and if there are any safety concerns, we will be sure to alert the public," said Paul Duchesne, a spokesman for Canada's federal health department. Staff Sgt. Steve Saunders of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the national police service was aware of the FDA release but could not comment, citing privacy law and agency policy.
Consumers who ordered drugs through the Mediplan-linked Web sites should talk to their doctors and get their prescriptions refilled, Lutter said.
Canadian Internet pharmacies catering to American customers debuted roughly six years ago, after busloads of U.S. border-state seniors began venturing north in search of lower-priced prescription drugs.
Drugs ordered through the Mediplan-linked sites and intercepted by U.S. officials were not shipped from Canada, Lutter said.
Strempler said the drugs his company sells generally are produced for Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. He declined to say from which countries the company ships.
"I hesitate to put that information out there because it's another way they target us," he said.
Importing drugs into the United States is illegal, though the FDA generally does not stop small shipments purchased for personal use. The FDA says it cannot guarantee the safety and efficacy of imported drugs.