USA – Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has sued drug distributors and a pharmacy in an attempt to halt the sale of counterfeit versions of its HIV medications, seeking at least US$25 million in damages from each defendant.

J&J discovered widespread counterfeiting after patients complained about receiving the wrong pills in their prescription bottles, as did the voluntary return of hundreds of bottles of counterfeit pharmaceuticals from one of the defendants, distributor ProPharma Distribution LLC.

Following the filing of a lawsuit by Gilead Sciences Inc. in January, the company stated that it became aware of the sale of counterfeit versions of its HIV medications.

J&J claims that some products labeled as HIV treatments contained different HIV drugs or in at least one case included a drug to treat conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The action follows a similar lawsuit from Gilead Sciences—filed in July of last year and unsealed in January—which claimed a network of distributors sold more than US$250 million in counterfeit versions of its HIV drugs, mostly Biktarvy and Descovy.

While the bottles in the Gilead case appeared to be genuine, many of them were filled with a generic pain reliever or high-dose tablets of the antipsychotic Seroquel. According to the company, more than 85,000 bottles of counterfeit Gilead medication were sold.

J&J is requesting US$25 million in damages from each defendant, as well as a prohibition on the sale of any of their products. J&J has been aware of the problem for some time.

It collaborated with the FDA in 2020 to notify patients and investigate any instances of counterfeit Symtuza being sold.

Among the medications at issue are Symtuza, a multi-drug combination treatment, as well as Prezcobix, Prezista, and Edurant.

ProPharma is one of the defendants named, along with Safe Chain Solutions, Scripts Wholesale and I Care Pharmacy 14.

According to the lawsuit, I Care Pharmacy had a physical location in New York City, which was immediately closed down after a fraudulent transaction was discovered.

J&J believes the pharmacy is connected to a criminal counterfeiting network that is still active in New York City and is dispensing dangerous counterfeit HIV medication.

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