Another case of medicine tampering linked to earlier recall of Valium

NSW Police is currently investigating.

The same warehouse investigated over tampered-with Valium has been linked to another instance of medicine tampering, this time with the generic variant, Valpam 5.

CHOICE can reveal the tampering with and recall of Valium last month, and a new instance of tampering with the generic variant, Valpam 5, are both suspected to have occurred at the same Symbion Contract Logistics warehouse located in Rydalmere, NSW.

NSW Police are currently investigating the theft of blister sheets from sealed packets of both Valium and Valpam 5, which were then replaced with sheets containing other medication, in a likely bid to delay authorities from identifying the misconduct.

The refilling of the packets of Valium and Valpam 5 with foreign blister sheets has led to four other medications being recalled, many of which can only be purchased with a prescription.

The most recent recall of Valpam 5 was initiated on Friday by manufacturer Arrow Pharmaceuticals. The recall of Valpam 5 – a generic variant based on the same active ingredient as Valium, known as diazepam – was enacted after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) was made aware of "evidence of medicine tampering".

This is the second incident of medicine tampering to occur within the last month, when the discovery of tampered-with packets of Valium led to a nationwide recall by manufacturer Roche Australia.

Tens of thousands of Valpam 5 packs will be recalled...

Both Arrow Pharmaceuticals and Roche Australia work with wholesaler Symbion to distribute medication to its network of pharmacies. Multiple sources confirmed to CHOICE that the tampering of Valium and Valpam 5 is suspected to have happened at the same warehouse.

Symbion declined to answer CHOICE's questions, but confirmed in a statement it is working with authorities to investigate the case of tampered-with Valpam 5.

A NSW Police spokesperson says "inquiries are continuing into both incidents" and confirmed no one has yet been charged.

Tens of thousands of Valpam 5 packs will be affected by the recall; however, those that have been tampered with account for a small percentage, says Dennis Bastas, the chief executive of Arrow Pharmaceuticals.

"The majority of the product is in the wholesale network, and that's in the order of about tens of thousands of units," he tells CHOICE.

"You have to take the most conservative perspective [when it comes to a recall], which is to recall all of the products. Even though I am absolutely sure that 99% of the product is okay."

The recalls of Valium and Valpam 5, which have been described by pharmacists as being "highly addictive", apply to 5 milligram tablets sold in packs of 50. Both drugs are used to treat anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and muscle spasms.

Patients with an affected pack face "serious health consequences" if they take the wrong medication, warns the TGA.

The tampered-with packs of Valium have been topped up with blister sheets containing codeine, rosuvastatin and pantoprazole, while the packs of Valpam 5 could have amlodipine sandoz, according to recall notices.

Alternatively, those who have purchased an affected batch of Valium or Valpam 5 may not have an adequate supply of the diazepam-based medication they were initially prescribed.

Patients are being advised to return their medication – whether used or new – to the place of purchase, where they will be offered generic equivalent.