Federal authorities have reportedly seized more than a hundred shipments of unauthorized versions of the COVID-19 treatment remdesivir bound for Mexico in recent months.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that people familiar with the investigation said the shipments were seized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at various U.S. airports after they arrived by plane from Bangladesh and India.
The sources told the news outlet that people have attempted to smuggle the treatment to patients willing to pay high amounts for the drug.
CBP officers have referred the unauthorized shipments to special agents at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for further investigation to determine if the seized items are counterfeit or generic versions of the drug, the Journal reported.
The Hill has reached out to DHS for comment.
Remdesivir, which was granted full approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October after being granted emergency use authorization last May, has recently been cleared for use in Mexico, prompting high demand for the treatment.
The drug has shown modest benefits for COVID-19 patients, and a World Health Organization (WHO) panel in November recommended against using it in hospitalized patients, citing that no evidence has been found indicating that it improves chances of survival among these individuals.
However, in countries with limited methods available to treat coronavirus patients, remdesivir has become highly sought out, the Journal noted, leading to counterfeit or unlicensed versions of the drug found by authorities in countries like Colombia and India.
Authorities in the U.S. throughout the pandemic have also led investigations into counterfeit personal protective equipment, vaccines and other products.
The Russia Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which oversees exports of the inoculation, said at the time that “analysis of the photographs of the seized batch, including the design of containers and labels, suggests that it is a fake substance which has nothing to do with the original vaccine,” and that the shipment’s procedure “was also in violation of packaging and transportation protocols for the official Sputnik V vaccine.”
In April, Pfizer identified fake doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Mexico and Poland, with the Journal reporting at the time that roughly 80 people in Mexico received a fake vaccine at $1,000 per dose in February.