Advair Diskus Warning Issued By FDA Over Stolen Asthma Inhalers

Federal drug regulators and law enforcement officials are warning consumers to be on the lookout for stolen Advair Diskus inhalers, which have been found in pharmacies. 

The FDA issued a stolen Advair Diskus warning on July 16, alerting consumers and pharmacists that Advair inhalers stolen in 2009 have been turning up in pharmacies. The FDA warns that the effectiveness and safety of these asthma inhalers cannot be verified.

The inhalers were stolen in a Hollywood-style heist last August from a GlaxoSmithKline warehouse in Chesterfield, Virginia. Police say the thieves cut a hole in the ceiling and rappelled down using a trapeze-like device, swiping 25,600 inhalers worth more than $6 million. Law enforcement officials say they suspect the same group was responsible for an even more spectacular robbery at an Eli Lilly warehouse in Connecticut in March, where they again cut a hole in the roof and rappelled to the floor, getting away with $75 million in drugs.

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The FDA warns that the stolen inhalers include 60-dose Advair Diskus 250/50 inhalers with a lot number of 9ZP2255 – NDC 0173-0696-00, and 60-dose Advair Diskus 500/50 inhalers with a lot number of 9ZP3325 – NDC 0173-0697-00. According to FDA, the drugs may have been compromised by being stored in the wrong temperature or humidity, may have been tampered with or could have become contaminated.

Advair (salmeterol and fluticasone) is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline PLC. It is a blockbuster asthma medication that brings in $7 billion in sales annually.

In February of this year, the FDA contraindicated Advair and other drugs in the same class, known as long-acting beta agonists (LABAs), for solo use. The agency determined that the side effects of Advair and similar asthma medications could increase the risk of severe asthma attacks and death in adults and children. The agency determined that the drugs should only be used is they are being used in conjunction with an asthma controller medication, like an inhaled corticosteroid.

Asthma affects 20 million Americans, including 6.5 million children. It is a chronic disease with symptoms like wheezing, difficulty breathing and spasms, which can severely limit activities and impact quality of life.

The agency is urging anyone who has purchased an inhaler from the affected lots to stop using them immediately, contact GlaxoSmithKline and follow up with their physician or pharmacist to get a replacement. The FDA also urges any pharmacists or wholesalers who find the stolen drugs on their shelves to contact the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations at www.fda.gov/oci.

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