Canada
FDA warns of counterfeit Botox from Winnipeg-based online pharmacy Canada Drugs

Canada Drugs office at 10 Terracon Place on Wed., Feb. 6, 2013 in Winnipeg

Credits: Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun/QMI Agency

DAVID LARKINS | QMI AGENCY

WINNIPEG -- A Winnipeg-based online pharmaceutical company is back in the crosshairs of American investigators after allegedly distributing phony medicine to clinics in the US.

The Food and Drug Administration recently alerted more than 350 medical practices in the United States that they may have received unapproved versions of Botox, the drug most commonly known for its use in removing wrinkles. The FDA warned these practices to stop using unapproved versions of Botox "and any other products they have received from foreign suppliers owned and operated by Canada Drugs."

An in-person request for comment from CanadaDrugs.com was ignored Thursday, as was an e-mail on Wednesday.

It's not the first time Canada Drugs has been the target of FDA investigations. In February 2012, the FDA investigated a link between Canada Drugs and the sale and distribution of the cancer-fighting drug Avastin through clinics in the U.S. In September, the FDA sent a warning letter to Canada Drugs to cease marketing drugs to American customers via nearly 4,000 websites.

Amanda Mills-Sirois, a spokeswoman for Allergan, the maker of Botox, said the company takes the counterfeit threat seriously.

"Allergan does not support the sale of Botox or Botox Cosmetic through online channels," she wrote in an e-mail.

"Allergan considers the importation and distribution of ... any of our prescription products from foreign or unlicensed suppliers to be a serious concern. Aside from violating federal law, products that are illegally imported may either be counterfeit or the quality may have been compromised and, as a result, patient safety is jeopardized."

Daniel Sitar, a professor in the University of Manitoba's Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, said the unknown entity of online pharmaceuticals is of concern.

"It may not have the same purity as Botox, it may be diluted. There is no way to know for sure what is being administered," Sitar said. "It happens all around the world. There is a huge problem with counterfeit medications."

Dr. Earl Minuk, a Winnipeg dermatologist and internist, said authentic Botox has features indicating its legitimacy, such as a hologram sticker and a Drug Identification Number.

"You don't need to take your blinders off to know that there's people setting up all the time trying to make money," Minuk said. "Patients have to be warned about that."

Both Sitar and Minuk say they're skeptical of the online industry.

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