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Tue Sep 23 02:20:32 SAST 2014

100 tons of bad medicine seized

GRAEME HOSKENin Colombia | 24 October, 2013 00:370 Comments
File photo

Police from across Southern Africa, led by Interpol, have seized 100 tons of counterfeit medicines and arrested 180 suspects in the past week.

Interpol yesterday revealed that the global sale of counterfeit drugs was valued at over $100-million (R1-billion) a year.

In June, 110 million pills valued at $37-million were confiscated under Operation Pangea 6, which targeted the sale of fake medicines over the internet.

The operation took place in 99 countries across Africa, Europe, the US, South America and Asia.

Aline Plancon, Interpol's sub-director for medical product counterfeiting and pharmaceutical crime, said the manufacturers preyed on the vulnerable.

"Every one who is sick, rich and poor, is targeted.

"These criminal organisations prey on the dying, the ill and the infirm.

"Africa is terrible. It is very exposed to this deadly problem because there are problems with integrating medical supply chains into countries' health systems.

"This current operation and other recent African operations shows how bad the continent is. It is beyond description," she said.

Plancon said the operation was part of a larger Southern African regional operation targeting the direct sale of fake medicines to people.

"It has been months in the planning [and] intelligence-driven, using various policing agencies - including officers from South Africa."

She said the syndicates were well organised, with vast cash resources, and could produce exact replicas of legitimate drugs for sale in hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.

"Their intelligence networks are incredible.

"They know exactly what medicines are required, what regions are affected by what diseases, about new emerging drugs and they act on this."

Plancon said: "Globally the sale of legal medicines generates about $1.3-billion [a year in profit] with the sale of fake medicines estimated to generate organised crime syndicates 10% of this. Eighty percent of so-called medicines sold over the internet are counterfeit."

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