AT A GLANCE: AstraZeneca manages Casodex recall issue

Is this the counterfeit drug recall?
Yes, last Friday the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued a drug alert recalling AstraZeneca’s Casodex, a product used to treat prostate cancer. Tests showed that at least one batch of the medicine was fake, containing just 75 per cent of the amount of the active ingredient (bicalutamide) required.

Bit of a reputational challenge for AZ then?
You could say that. The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, BBC Online and The Times all ran major pieces on the recall and the MHRA announced it was making the move ‘to minimise the risk to patients’. No pharma company wants to be associated with such risk and AZ has reacted by issuing a release stating its commitment to work with the MHRA. Pharmacists have been urged to return dubious packs of the drug to AZ for further examination.

Will AZ bring in outside help?
Earlier this week, Casodex comms manager Isabelle Jouin emphasised that the issue is being handled internally by AZ, without agency support. The company stresses that it monitors its manufacturing and supply chain regularly.

How did the MHRA handle it?
Media relations manager Sara Coakley’s key message was to publicise the affected dose (50mg) and batch number (65520). In its initial statement, the MHRA did this and both figured prominently in the news coverage, along with the advice that patients should contact their phar­macist as soon as possible, as well as their GP if they have health worries. It also stressed that there was no evidence of patients having any adverse reactions related to the counterfeits.

Is such a recall unusual?
In the normal run of things the answer would be ‘yes’ – but, in fact, this is the third recall in the past couple of weeks. The other two drugs are neuroscience brand Zyprexa (Lilly UK ) and anti-clotting drug Plavix (Bristol Myers Squibb and Sanofi Aventis). The MHRA says there may be links between the three incidents. A police investigation is under way.

Sounds like there’s a big trade in fake high street medicines?
The US Food and Drug Administration has estimated that as much as ten per cent of drugs worldwide could be counterfeit, although it has been seen as more of a problem in developing countries.

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