African raids seize 82M doses of counterfeits

A sweep coordinated by the World Customs Organization (WCO) in Africa seized 82 million doses of counterfeit drugs worth an estimated $40 million. Africa is plagued by counterfeit and substandard drugs because of limited resources, and the fakes lead to thousands of deaths.

"These results are alarming and serve as a reminder of the scale of the traffic in illicit medicines in Africa and the danger this illicit trade represents to consumer health and safety," the Belgium-based organization said in a release. While the raids were conducted last summer, the WCO only recently announced the results.

The VICE GRIPS 2 operation took place in seaports across 16 African countries, with local customs officials searching 110 containers, 84 of which contained counterfeits. The drugs seized came mostly from South and East Asia and the Middle East, the WCO said. They included antimalarial and antiparasitic drugs, antibiotics, cough syrups, contraceptive pills and infertility treatments. The greatest hauls were in shipments found in Angola, Togo, Cameroon and Ghana.

The organization has held earlier sweeps but said this one was more effective, in part because of new technology that helped identify fakes. The WCO said it plans to take this kind of operation to other parts of the world that need improvements in oversight and enforcement. The agency said these coordinated events can train local customs officials in how to target and analyze counterfeits and uncover the types of products counterfeiters are focused on.

There seems to be a growing realization that Western nations need to make a more concerted effort to upgrade drug oversight in developing countries. It will save lives but also help Western nations protect the investments they make in drug programs. Also, because so many active pharmaceutical ingredients are made in some of these countries, it can help prevent counterfeits from getting into drugs made in or shipped to developed countries.

- here's the release