Illegal medications seized in 16 African countries

An unprecedented crackdown in 16 African countries netted 82 million doses of illegal or counterfeit drugs, including antibiotics, contraceptives and malaria treatments, the World Customs Organisation (WCO) said on Thursday.

The operation, called Vice Grips 2, was carried out by customs inspectors in 16 ports from July 11 to 20, it said.

"It is the biggest operation of its kind," Christophe Zimmermann, in charge of anti-counterfeit operations at the WCO, said at a press conference in Paris.

The street value of the drugs was $40 million (30 million euros), which points to commerce with an annual turnover of $5 billion, he said.

The biggest hauls were made in Angola, Cameroon, Ghana and Togo. Most of the came from East and South Asia—particularly China—and the Middle East, notably Dubai.

Illegal medications are a growing problem in Africa, as they may be toxic or fail to have a sufficient dose of active ingredient to combat a disease, Zimmermann and others said.

Inspectors helped by a French anti-counterfeit agency searched 110 shipping containers, 84 of which were found to have illegal or fake medications.

Some of the merchandise pointed to elaborate or even industrial-scale operations, the two agencies said.

Inspectors found 33 million doses of fake medications, along with pornographic DVDs, that had been stashed deep inside a batch of loudspeakers that were being exported to Angola. None of the "drugs" had any active ingredient.

In Togo, a smuggled batch of expectorant , supposed to be kept at a cool, stable temperature of -2 to +4 degrees Celsius (28-39 degrees Fahrenheit), was literally cooking in a container where the temperature was more than 50 C (122 F).

"Africa is now being used as a rubbish tip, and this directly affects consumer health and safety," Zimmermann said.

"We are dealing with structured organisations that specialise in international fraud, which exploit globalisation in operations that span continents and countries, using different forms of transport."

Two further operations would be staged in Africa over the next six months in order to maintain momentum on the fakers, said the WCO's secretary general, Kunio Mikuriya.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Internet led to global 'explosion' of fake drugs

Jun 14, 2012

The rapid growth of Internet commerce has led to an explosion of counterfeit drugs sold around the world, with China the biggest source of fake medicines, pharmaceutical experts said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Novartis Japan admits concealing drug side effects

2 hours ago

The Japanese unit of Swiss pharma giant Novartis has admitted it did not report more than 2,500 cases of serious side effects in patients using its leukaemia and other cancer drugs, reportedly including some fatalities.

Most US babies get their vaccines, CDC says

Aug 28, 2014

(HealthDay)—The vast majority of American babies are getting the vaccines they need to protect them from serious illnesses, federal health officials said Thursday.

Expression of privilege in vaccine refusal

Aug 27, 2014

Not all students returning to school this month will be up to date on their vaccinations. A new study conducted by Jennifer Reich, a researcher at the University of Colorado Denver, shows that the reasons why children may ...

User comments