The economy might be in distress, but the snake-oil merchants are thriving. The Food and Drug Administration warned consumers recently about a potentially harmful counterfeited drug that could be a killer in two respects: It lacks all of the flu-preventing medicine it purports to have and it contains a drug that can be lethal.
The FDA had bought the product, billed as a generic version of Tamiflu, a drug that is used both to prevent and treat flu, without a prescription from a website claiming to be an online drugstore. (There is no FDA-approved generic version of the prescription product Tamiflu.) Tests conducted by the regulatory agency revealed that instead of Tamiflu's active ingredient, oseltamivir, the fraudulent product contains cloxacillin, an ingredient in the same class of antibiotics as penicillin. Thus, it is dangerous to patients who are allergic to penicillin, carrying the risk of a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, the symptoms of which include difficulty breathing, chest tightness, swelling of the throat or tongue, hives, dizziness, loss of consciousness and a rapid and/or weak pulse.