US officials have reportedly intercepted more than 100 illegal shipments of the COVID-19 treatment drug remdesivir bound for Mexico, where demand is high amid surging cases.
Customs and Border Protection seized shipments of the drug in recent months, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the investigation.
CBP officers then referred the shipments to Department of Homeland Security special agents for further investigation, according to the newspaper.
DHS agents have been testing the drugs to determine whether they’re counterfeit or generic forms of the medicine, both of which are illegal in the US and Mexico, the Journal reported.
CBP officers have seized boxes of the drug in Texas and New York that were flown in from India and Bangladesh, according to the Journal. No arrests have been made yet, the Journal said, and the investigation is ongoing.
Remdesivir is an antiviral drug manufactured by Gilead Sciences. It has shown some evidence in cutting the risk of death for severely sick COVID-19 patients.
The seized shipments and ongoing investigation is the federal government’s latest effort to crack down on counterfeit COVID-related products such as face masks, gloves and even fake vaccination cards.
Mexico authorized the use of remdesivir for COVID-19 patients in March. The US Food and Drug Administration authorized its use in some patients as early as May of 2020, and the drug received full approval in October.
Demand for remdesivir is high in Mexico, where authorities recently authorized its use, and where a COVID-19 outbreak is surging, the outlet reported.
Gilead last year agreed to license out production of generic forms of remdesivir, which is now being produced by companies in India, Egypt and Pakistan, the Journal reported.
But some companies in Hungary, Russia and Bangladesh have produced generic forms of the drug without licensing from the company, some with backing from their governments, according to the Journal.
The generic forms of remdesivir aren’t licensed for use in the US or Mexico, but US authorities have nonetheless seen generic forms of remdesivir for sale in Mexico, the Journal reported.
Representatives for Customs and Border Protection and for the Department of Homeland Security did not return The Post’s request for comment.