Istanbul police have raided an organized crime gang that had been selling counterfeit cancer drugs in Turkey and abroad, in an operation carried out in nine separate cities Hurriyet Daily News reported.
The gang had been manufacturing the counterfeit drugs and selling them to both domestic and foreign health institutions, including in the United States.
The police operation started on Dec. 10 in around 130 places across nine cities, resulting in the detention of 56 suspects.
Some 37 suspects were detained in Istanbul and later sent to the Police General Directorate for questioning on Dec. 11. Those detained in other cities were also expected to be brought to Istanbul.
As part of the crackdown, police raided a printing house in the Bağcılar district, where gang members had been printing the box and the prospectus of the counterfeit drugs. Fake passports and a gun were also found at the printing house and seized, Cihan news agency reported.
The gang was packaging drugs that had extended their use-by date as if they were new and reselling them to patients. One packet of these drugs was being sold for between 2,000 and 2,500 Turkish Liras.
The gang had also manufactured counterfeit version of around 30 different drugs, among them drugs used to treat cancer.
It has been revealed that 95 cancer patients had used these drugs and had been warned. The health condition of these patients deteriorated after taking the counterfeit pills. All have now filed a formal complaint against those who sold them the counterfeit drugs.
The gang was particularly focusing on the production of drugs that are scarce in pharmacies, offering them to patients illegally without any form of official paperwork.
Five hospital workers who were allegedly acting as suppliers of the counterfeit drugs to patients have been detained in Istanbul, and police are still searching for two doctors believed to have also been involved. The gang was reportedly bribing the doctors and hospital personnel in order to access patients for the sale of the counterfeit drugs.
The gang was exposed following scrutiny of the fake drugs' packaging by a nurse at state-run Şişli Etfal Education and Research Hospital. After the nurse realized that the contents differed slightly different from the original, she was prompted to follow up the licensing of the drug. The expiration date of the drug had been recorded as 2013 in the system, while the drug's packaging showed 2014. The drug was sent to the manufacturer, where it was identified as a counterfeit drug, containing unhealthy chemicals.