$12M in Counterfeit Drugs Seized in Southeast Asia

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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.

Related sources:

INTERPOL applauds Southeast Asia Operation Storm II’s success in disrupting trade of counterfeit medical products,” INTERPOL. January 27, 2010.
Fake medicines seized in Asia, 30 arrested: Interpol,” Agence France-Presse. January 28, 2010.
Police seize 20m fake drugs in Southeast Asia,” Securing Pharma. January 28, 2010.