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Gilead warns that counterfeit versions of its HIV meds are being found in U.S. pharmacies

A CVS pharmacy store front
New York, December 1, 2016: People walk by a CVS pharmacy on 3rd Avenue in Manhattan.Photo: Roman Tiraspolsky / Shutterstock

U.S. pharmacies are selling counterfeit versions of HIV medication, according to the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences.

Specifically, Gilead warned that knock-off versions of its Biktarvy and Descovy medications have circulated through pharmacies due to unauthorized distributors. Both medications are used to treat people living with HIV. Descovy is also used as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV-negative people from contracting the virus.

Related: HIV medications may lower the risk of COVID & getting severe coronavirus symptoms 

“Distributors not authorized by Gilead to sell Gilead-branded medicine have sold these counterfeits to pharmacies where genuine Gilead bottles have been tampered with a counterfeit foil induction seal or label and contain incorrect tablets,” Gilead said in a statement.

The company is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, pharmacies and other legal authorities to track down the culprits and remove the counterfeit meds from the market.

Gilead said the counterfeit and tampered medicines can “bring serious and sometimes life-threatening health risks to individuals.”

The counterfeits can contain incorrect medical ingredients, wrong amounts of the active ingredients or also contain impurities that can compromise the quality, safety or effectiveness of the genuine medications. The counterfeits can also be produced in unsafe manufacturing conditions and shipped through insecure supply chains that allow the medications to become taint with impurities.

Thankfully, the genuine medications have several tell-tale signs of authenticity. Real Biktarvy tablets are “purplish-brown, capsule-shaped pills with ‘9883’ on one side and ‘GSI’ on the other.” Authentic Descovy tablets are “blue and rectangular with ‘225’ on one side and ‘GSI’ on the other.”

Both medications are also sold in 30-count, white plastic bottles with white plastic caps and Gilead-branded labels.

Anyone who thinks they’ve been given counterfeit Gilead medications should immediately report the medicine to their doctor and pharmacy and Gilead Product Quality Complaints at 1-800-445-3235 or [email protected], the company said

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