The Partnership for Safe Medicines
Weekly Update February 8, 2010
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$12M in Counterfeit Drugs Seized in Southeast Asia

An international police operation led to the seizure of $20M in counterfeit and illegal medicines, including antibiotics, anitimalarials, contraceptives, anti-tetanus vaccines, aspirin and drugs to treat erectile dysfunction. An estimated $12M were counterfeits with the remaining $8M found to be drugs that were "expired, diverted or unregistered."

Who: Medical Products Counterfeiting and Pharmaceutical Crime (MPCPC); Singapore's Health Sciences Authority; the Counterfeit Drug Forensic Investigation Network (CODFIN); and the World Health Organization's International Medical Products Anti-counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) program.

When: Reported Jan. 28, 2010; operation carried out between July and November of 2009.

Where: The operation covered eight countries in Southeast Asia: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

How: The seizure is credited to the collaboration between public and private organizations at the international level.

Additional details:

On January 28, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) released details of Operation Storm II, an international operation resulting in the seizure of an estimated $20 million in fake and illegal medicines that led to the closure of 100 pharmacies and illegitimate drug outlets and more than 30 related arrests.

According to INTERPOL, Operation Storm II was created under the framework of the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force (IMPACT); coordinated by INTERPOL and supported by the Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) division of the WHO.

In a statement, INTERPOL said these partnerships "provided a platform for collaboration between national police, customs and drug regulatory authorities from eight countries (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam), as well as with international organizations and the private sector."

INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble noted the critical importance of public-private partnerships and international action to combat the counterfeit drug trade, adding that a collaborative response is "all the more important when globalization and modern technology mean that the methods of producing and distributing counterfeit medicines cut across borders and are developing and increasing, thereby posing an increased threat to people's health and lives."

Tom Kubic, president and CEO of Pharmaceutical Security Institute and board member of the Partnership for Safe Medicines applauded the multinational, multi-agency effort. "The only way we can stop unscrupulous counterfeiters from endangering the public is by working together across international lines and government agencies," said Kubic. "It's heartening to see more and more countries taking aim at counterfeit drugs and the public health hazard that they pose. There is much work ahead, but efforts like this prove we're making great progress."

The final stage of the operation included a training course in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 25-26. The training was conducted by INTERPOL -IMPACT and involved more than 40 Indonesian police, regulators and representatives from the justice department.
Top News


Europe: Lifestyle Drugs Purchased Online Present Health Risks


Though purchasing lifestyle drugs online is attractive for its anonymity, it brings with it substantial health risks. In addition to the possibility of taking counterfeit or substandard drugs, the lack of physician care may cause underlying health issues to go untreated. "[Performance] problems can be an early warning sign of heart disease or diabetes," says Dr. Graham Jackson, a cardiologist at London Bridge Hospital in the UK. "If you do have a problem and don't see a doctor, diagnosis of those important conditions can be missed. Men with no symptoms at all who [develop performance] problem[s] usually are an average of three to five years away from a heart attack. Instead of going to the internet, they should be going to their doctors to find out if they are at risk and to do something about it." ("Fake Drugs Bought on the Web Pose Big Health Risks," Business Week, January 29, 2010; Story here)

World News


Lebanon: Officials Investigate Pharmacies Selling Counterfeit Drugs


Additional pharmacies are at risk of closure following the closure of nine pharmacies and four medical distribution warehouses last week, according to Health Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh. The pharmacies in question were found to be in possession of a counterfeit form of Plavix, a heart medication. The ministry is now widening the search, after closing all the pharmacies and warehouses involved in distribution. ("Khalifeh: Investigation Into Counterfeit Drugs Widened", The Daily Star, February 1, 2010; Story here)



Vietnam: Officials Seek to Stop Counterfeit Drug Sellers


The Investigative Police Bureau in Ho Chi Minh City has issued a warrant for the arrest of Viet-Phap Joint-Stock Pharmaceutical Company Director Huynh Ngoc Quang and 13 accomplices for making and selling counterfeit drugs. The group is accused of purchasing domestically manufactured drugs from pharmaceutical companies, grounding them up and repackaging them with foreign-imported labels to sell at higher prices. The medicines were sold under brand names including Vastarel, Nimupas, Terneurin, Becozumy, and Fugacar. ("Fourteen Accused of Selling Fake Drugs in HCM City," Vietnam Net, February 3, 2010; Story here)



Nigeria: Counterfeit Anti-Malaria Drugs Seized by Officials


On January 26, officials of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) seized a large quantity of counterfeit anti-malarial drugs in several pharmacies in the city of Kaduna. The alleged fake anti-malaria drugs and other antibiotics did not pass the on-the-spot tests carried out by NAFDAC officials. The agency officials promptly ordered that the fake anti-malaria drugs be put "on hold" pending evacuation from the dealers' shops and threatened to seal off the various shops where the fake drugs were discovered. The seized fake drugs, NAFDAC officials said, would be subjected to further laboratory tests and the dealers would be prosecuted.  ("NAFDAC Seizes Fake Anti-Malaria Drugs in Kaduna Markets," The Punch Nigeria, January 27, 2010; Story here)



Poland: According to Experts, Counterfeit Drugs Run Rampant


According to the World Health Organization, Poles spend about 100 million zloty (25 million euro) a year on counterfeit drugs. Last year, the Customs Service confiscated more than 10,500 counterfeit drug doses worth 40,000 euro. Most of them were counterfeit lifestyle drugs, however police reports show that diet pills, steroids, psychotropic and anti-cancer medicines are also frequently falsified. ("Fake Drugs Flood Poland, The News, February 3, 2010; Story here)

About the Partnership for Safe Medicines
The Partnership for Safe Medicines is a group of organizations and individuals that have policies, procedures, or programs to protect consumers from counterfeit or contraband medicines. For more information, please visit