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WCO seizes 113m fake Indian & Chinese drugs in Africa in 10 days

Published on 03/02/17 at 10:19am

The World Customs Organisation (WCO) has revealed insight into the extent of the global drug counterfeiting crisis with the announcement that it seized 113 million illegal pharmaceutical products over just ten days in September 2016.

The items included antimalarial, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory imitation drugs, apprehended in 16 different countries, with the largest hauls in Nigeria, Kenya, Togo and Benin, but of these drugs, 97% were incoming from India or China.

Counterfeit medicines carry a range of risks for unwitting patients, from toxicity that can lead to illness or even death, to causing “immunity to genuine treatments for certain diseases, like tuberculosis,” the IRACM’s Jean-David Levitte explains.

In partnership with the Institute of Research against Counterfeit Medicine (IRACM), the WCO has taken hold of over 750 million counterfeit drugs in Africa’s ports since 2012.

A number of reasons have been put forward for this worrying climate, including more relaxed trafficking punishments on the continent and lack of ability by the authorities to intervene: because of legal tenets stating that shipping containers cannot be opened without the presence of the importer, traffickers have been able to take advantage of this and easily smuggle the imitation products. It has been estimated that counterfeit medicine generates from ten to twenty times more money for traffickers than illegal recreational drugs.

At the Bamako summit on 16 January heads of state discussed “the serious dangers, especially for its people’s health, that the growing trafficking of fake medicines, developed by transnational criminal organisations, poses to Africa”, dedicating “further solidarity in their efforts against terrorism and illegal trafficking”.

Matt Fellows

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