National / Crime & Legal

Couple held over bogus hepatitis C drug served fresh warrant over fake Harvoni tablets

JIJI

A couple were arrested anew Wednesday on suspicion of selling a counterfeit version of the hepatitis C drug Harvoni to a wholesaler.

The Metropolitan Police Department arrested Yoshimi Kase, 49, and her husband, Takayuki, 43, on suspicion of violating the pharmaceuticals and medical devices law.

The two, who had already been indicted for the use of illegal drugs, denied the fresh allegations and claimed their products were genuine, according to investigative sources.

The police suspect the couple sold two bottles of fake Harvoni tablets to a now-defunct drug wholesaler in Tokyo on Jan. 4, 2017, for about ¥1.6 million to ¥2 million — or 50 to 70 percent of the government-set price for the drug.

They are also charged with selling tablets of Sovaldi, also used to treat hepatitis C, to a wholesaler in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, on two occasions without permission in 2016, making around ¥1 million.

Since January last year, 15 bottles of the counterfeit Harvoni tablets have been found at a wholesaler in Tokyo and a drug store in Nara Prefecture.

All were first procured by the wholesaler that the couple are believed to have supplied with the counterfeit product.

The health ministry and other authorities have found that the tablets in the bottles were not Harvoni but vitamins and other pills.

Police believe there may be more providers of counterfeit products, investigative sources said.

Harvoni tablets, made by U.S. pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences Inc., are in strong demand despite their high cost, mainly because they are easy to take.