The manufacturer of third generation EPO, CERA, is helping the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) track down illegal use of the drug by athletes. Roche Holding AG said that it has collaborated with the WADA since 2004. "We were very pleased that this collaboration with WADA has been productive," Roche spokeswoman Claudia Schmitt told the Associated Press.
So far, three Tour de France stage winners have tested positive for CERA – or Mircera – under a new blood test: Stefan Schumacher, Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli. This week the International Olympic Committee said that it would use the tests on doping samples from the Beijing Olympics.
The Swiss company developed the drug four years ago, to help patients with kidney disease. "At that time it was in clinical development and WADA was thinking it could be a new doping product," Schmitt said. "We immediately jumped in to help. We provided data and sent them samples of Mircera so they could work and develop the test."
Athletes liked the drug because its is effective longer than EPO and must therefore not be injected as often. It also lasts for up to 134 hours, instead of 40 hours for EPO. "This is also the reason why it has helped WADA to detect it more easily," Schmitt noted.
"We are really not happy to see Mircera misused for doping, or to see it in the sports world," Schmitt said. "It is very clearly labelled for the use in patients with certain kidney diseases or anaemia. Maybe now with the sports world knowing that it can be tested for, demand (in sports) will decrease."