U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Baltimore field office say they’ve seized thousands of unapproved or counterfeit coronavirus medications and test kits, with some seizures including the drug Hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug once promoted by the president as a possible treatment to COVID-19.
In a news release, the agency said Monday that since March 23, officers at various ports in the mid-Atlantic have seized “more than 1,350 unapproved and counterfeit COVID-19 test kits" and “nearly 2,500 unapproved and potentially counterfeit medicines.”
According to the agency, Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate, more commonly known as just Hydroxychloroquine, was one of the drugs seized at the ports.
While health experts say there’s a lack of concrete evidence demonstrating the anti-malarial drug can treat or prevent COVID-19, President Trump urged Americans to take it during a news conference last month, asking “What do you have to lose?”
Officers at ports in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh seized “nearly 400 counterfeit N95 respirator masks” and “more than 67,000 counterfeit ACCU-CHEK test strips," according to a release.
The agency said the products “are not on the current Emergency Use Authorization List nor are the manufacturers on the list of firms who have provided compliance notification to the FDA.”
The agency wrote that the packages were sent from addresses from a number of different countries, ranging from Germany to Saudi Arabia.
The agency did not detail how the packages were seized nor when, adding that “CBP is withholding specific details of individual seizures as many cases remain under investigation.”
“Panic-stricken consumers and predatory scammers continue to purchase coronavirus protective and diagnostic equipment, and pharmaceuticals from the overseas marketplace that are either counterfeit or unapproved for use in the United States, and that pose a potentially serious health concern for American consumers,” said Ronald Stanley, CBP’s Acting Director of Field Operations in Baltimore.
While some of the alleged products came through the Port of Baltimore, the agency wrote that the items “were destined to addresses in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Connecticut, and Florida.”
ACCU-CHEK, owned by Roche Diabetes Care inc., makes diabetes test kits and strips for patients to check their blood glucose levels at home. While the company warned that the pandemic could lead to a surge in demand for the product, Senior Vice President Matt Jewett wrote in a news release that the company’s test strips “are available online with free home delivery."