How much do 1 million Xanax pills weigh? About 400 kilograms (880 pounds), according to the drug regulator Swissmedic, which discovered 1 million counterfeit Xanax pills on a jet headed from China to Egypt.
The regulator says the drugs looked so genuine that they were not initially identified as counterfeit, Bloomberg reports. But tests confirmed they were fakes, and now they will be destroyed.
Counterfeiting is big business, amounting to an estimated $75 billion a year worldwide. But it is also a deadly one. "I'm angry. When criminals counterfeit Hermes scarves, money is stolen. When they counterfeit pills, they kill people," Erik Gordon, a professor of law and business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, wrote to Bloomberg in an email.
Counterfeits make their way into the U.S. and other developed countries, but they often originate and land in places with weak enforcement. Big Pharma is trying to help in that regard. Two dozen drugmakers this year agreed to donate €4.5 million ($5.9 million) over three years so the international crime fighter can do a better job of tracking them down. But that is not much in the face of what counterfeiters can earn. Swissmedic said through June it had seized about 90 shipments this year representing a high-potential health risk.
Of course Xanax is a popular drug worldwide. In fact, when a manufacturing changeover created shortages of it in the United Arab Emirates for several weeks last year, UAE regulators expedited approval to resolve the situation.
- here's the Bloomberg story