Fake drugs labelled as Chinese tea: France in record haul (Update)

April 10, 2014

Aspirin, anti-diarrhoea and erectile dysfunction drugs: French customs have seized millions of counterfeit medicines imported from China in what they described as the biggest haul of its kind within the European Union.

A total of 2.4 million pills, capsules and powdered medicine were seized at the end of February in the northern port of Le Havre in 601 boxes labelled as containing Chinese tea, customs officials said Thursday.

"Some of the drugs contain no active ingredient, which constitutes outright cheating of consumers," said a customs statement.

"Others have different levels of the active ingredient compared to the authentic drug which means they could represent a serious health risk for patients taking them."

According to French customs, the previous record seizure in the EU was for 1.2 million doses of counterfeit aspirin, also made at Le Havre in Normandy, in May 2013.

Like the seizure this year, the powdered aspirin was mainly composed of glucose.

Le Havre is a huge commercial port in France through which nearly 2.5 million containers transit annually.

Every year, customs seize tens of thousands of counterfeit products that include television sets, mobile phones, auto parts, clothes and medicine, most of which come from China en route to African countries such as Nigeria.

Last year, counterfeit drugs represented nearly 20 percent of all seized products, and consisted mainly of fake pills of Viagra and Cialis for erectile dysfunction, as well as aspirin.

The problem of counterfeit drug production in China was highlighted last year when the country's authorities launched a crackdown which led to 1,300 arrests in December and the closure of dozens of unauthorised online pharmacies.

According to the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, a US non-profit medical research group, the traffic in fake medicine is highly lucrative, generating 55 billion euros ($76 billion) globally in 2010, a 90-percent rise from 2005.

In Europe, meanwhile, a study conducted by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in 2010 showed that the market for fake drugs was worth around 10.5 billion euros, including one billion euros in France.

And according to the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, 62 percent of drugs bought on the Internet in 2011 were fake.

Explore further: Illegal medications seized in 16 African countries

Related Stories

Illegal medications seized in 16 African countries

October 25, 2012

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.

Recommended for you

Re-framing the placebo effect and informed consent

October 29, 2015

(Medical Xpress)—Imagine that your doctor knows from evidence-based studies that if he tells you about certain, small side-effects to a particular drug, you are significantly more likely to experience that side effect than ...

Can exercise be replaced with a pill?

October 2, 2015

Everyone knows that exercise improves health, and ongoing research continues to uncover increasingly detailed information on its benefits for metabolism, circulation, and improved functioning of organs such as the heart, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.