Potentially harmful stolen asthma inhalers show up in pharmacies, FDA says

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Potentially harmful stolen asthma inhalers show up in pharmacies, FDA sayThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that more than 25,000 asthma inhalers stolen last year from a pharmaceutical warehouse in Virginia have worked their way to pharmacy shelves and may not be safe or effective.

The Advair Diskus inhalers, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, were stolen from a company warehouse near Richmond, Va., in August 2009. In addition to asthma, they are used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The current batch are only the first to be found on the market, and more are likely to surface, the FDA said.

Stolen medicine poses a health risk because once it has been removed from the legitimate supply chain, it may have been stored without regard for temperature or humidity, tampered with, and even contaminated.

The lot numbers, doses, and quantities of the inhalers are:

Lot 9ZP2255 -- NDC 0173-0696-00, Advair Diskus 250/50, 60 dose, expiration Sept. 2010 (14,400 inhalers)
Lot 9ZP3325 -- NDC 0173-0697-00, Advair Diskus 500/50, 60 dose, expiration Sept. 2010 (11,200 inhalers)

Patients who have bought products with these lot numbers should immediately stop using them and call their doctor or pharmacist for replacement. They should also retain any documentation they have regarding that purchase, said Patty Johnson, a company spokeswoman.

The FDA and GlaxoSmithKline are further asking consumers who have received suspicious or unsolicited offers related to the inhalers to aid the investigation by reporting them to the Office of Criminal Investigations at 800-551-3989, or by visiting the OCI website. They can also contact GlaxoSmithKline's Customer Response Center at 888-825-5249.

The federal agency is appealing to pharmacists and wholesalers who may have unwittingly obtained the stolen inhalers to remove them from shelves and contact the OCI. They can check inventory against other products that have been reported stolen or counterfeited on the Cargo Theft web page.
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