Fake Viagra incident proves hospital pharmacists’ worth


The 2010 incident where thousands of counterfeit Viagra pills found their way into Australia’s official supply has highlighted the vital work of hospital pharmacists, says SHPA

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia issued a statement today pointing out that the incident, featured last night on the ABC’s 7.30 program, underlined the crucial role of hospital pharmacists in protecting Australians through the identification and confirmation of imitation medicines.

7.30 reported that a staff member at Sydney Children’s Hospital noticed that the consistency of Viagra tablets she was crushing for use in treating children with pulmonary hypertension was unusually gritty.

Upon contacting Pfizer, she was told the Viagra was counterfeit; analysis found the counterfeit pills contained less than the expected dose of sildenafil.

According to NSW Health, the counterfeits were spotted before being given to any patients.

Symbion then issued a voluntary recall of the affected batch number, with the TGA warning consumers in possession of Viagra tablets bearing this batch number and expiry date not to take them, but to return them to the pharmacy at which they were dispensed.

Pharmacies were advised to quarantine stocks of the batch to prevent further distribution.

Mina Attia, the former owner of Shopsmart Wholesale pharmacies across Sydney, who supplied the drugs is currently appealing the cancellation of his registration.

 Kristin Michaels, CEO of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia says the incident – in which counterfeit stock was sent to more than 260 pharmacies and three further other hospitals – highlights the crucial role hospital pharmacists play in protecting the integrity of Australia’s medicine supply.

“Looking back this was a near-miss, but the implications for patient safety could have been far worse were it not for the hospital pharmacist’s vigilance and proactive response,” Ms Michaels says.

“This incident is clear evidence the leadership of specially-training hospital pharmacists is a critical bulwark protecting the broader community from potentially dangerous counterfeit products.”

Ms Michaels says hospital pharmacists are uniquely placed to deploy medicines management expertise and ensure quality and safety.

“Equipped with broad and evolving knowledge on the latest in medicine innovations, supply shortages and potential fraud, hospital pharmacists possess the initiative and confidence to intervene and ensure the right medicine is delivered to the right patient.

“SHPA will welcome the findings of the current investigation and is committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure the security and reliability of Australia’s medicine supply is absolutely world class, to complement the world class healthcare all Australians rightfully expect.”

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