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More bottles of fake hepatitis C meds found at Tokyo wholesalers

Nine more bottles of counterfeit "Harvoni" hepatitis C medication tablets have been discovered at two pharmaceutical wholesalers in Tokyo, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced on Jan. 23.

The news follows the Jan. 17 ministry announcement that five bottles of counterfeit tablets had been found at a Nara pharmacy chain. By tracing the distribution channels of the pills found both in Nara and Tokyo, authorities have confirmed that at least nine firms in Osaka Prefecture and the capital have been involved in circulating the ersatz medication. Of these, three are thought to have acquired the items from several individuals who are not licensed to sell pharmaceuticals.

The ministry is investigating the case on suspicion that the counterfeit medication may have been distributed nationwide.

The total of 14 bottles of fake pills found so far had all been removed from their boxes and had been distributed without an instructions pamphlet, and the health ministry is considering prosecuting the individuals and wholesale companies involved for suspected violations of the pharmaceuticals and medical devices law.

The Nara pharmacy chain "Kansai Medico" acquired the counterfeit pills from three wholesalers in Tokyo and Osaka Prefecture. The discovery of more at the two Tokyo firms was made during the health ministry's investigation into the pills' distribution channels. The tablets were in real Harvoni bottles, and it appears the 28 genuine pills were replaced with counterfeit ones before shipping.

The non-counterfeit tablets are diamond-shaped, orange, and are marked "GSI" or "7985." A variety of counterfeit tablet types have been confirmed, including ones that are oval and light yellow or purple in color.

United States-based "Harvoni" maker Gilead Sciences, Inc. has said that it expects to complete its analysis of the fake pills' content within the month.

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