Written by Staff Writer
Tim Stevens, CNN
A week after Angela Merkel’s government issued a fresh warning about the prevalence of pharmaceutical deaths caused by fake medicines in Germany, more cases have emerged.
The Justice Ministry said a 14-year-old boy died on Monday in Lower Saxony, after taking a chemical substance called promethazine.
He had been prescribed the drug by his doctor for “historical” stomach disorders, officials said. Authorities are now trying to determine if promethazine is a direct cause of the young boy’s death.
One week earlier, a 19-year-old man died in Hamburg after taking “contaminated pharmaceuticals,” according to the ministry.
While they cannot independently verify if promethazine is a cause of the young man’s death, officials believe promethazine might be a factor in other similar cases in Germany.
“Health insurance companies are now preparing compensations checks in real time for patients who died recently after taking a type of drug whose ingredients are known to be counterfeit or illegally produced,” a ministry statement said on Friday.
“We estimate that there are over 100 cases similar to these. There could be up to 400 cases, as such fraud risks generally result in fraud. But we won’t know the extent until every perpetrator is identified.”
Admiral Hornung, head of the federal German Pharmaceutical Center (DAZG), said the cases showed just how serious the problem of fake drugs had become.
“The numbers of these cases are probably growing,” Hornung said, referring to the ongoing security operations and a new surveillance scheme by authorities, the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products Protection, known as FUMPI.
“We have the knowledge now to distinguish between real drugs and counterfeits,” he added. “This will help greatly. The government and FUMPI, together with doctors, have also adjusted patient safety rules. These, however, are very complicated to realize in any mass situation.”
The “Dramatic Issue with Counterfeits” incident occurs against a backdrop of growing concern about the scale of the counterfeit drug problem in Germany. The health care sector alone had 25 million cheques rejected last year due to the risk of fake drugs, government data show.
Numbers from the Health Ministry show: