Biyela_vice-grips_UKThe World Customs Organization and the International Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines joined forces in Africa to try and stem the tide of counterfeit drugs sweeping though African nations. With Operation Biyela 2 customs agents in 14 African countries have conducted seizures that paint a clearer picture of how counterfeit medication makes its way into Africa.

The Partnership for Safe Medicines’ Treasurer, Tom Kubic, President and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute congratulated WCO for their successful raids. "Operations such as Biyela 2 are essential to disrupting the global trade in unsafe medicines. A significant accomplishment was attained as over 113 million fake pharmaceutical products were seized before entering the marketplace. Building on these successes, the World Customs Organization needs to now focus on those criminal organizations engaged in manufacturing as well as the distribution of these illicit goods. Only by transnational investigations will the kingpins of these well organized groups be identified, prosecuted and jailed.

I am sure that there remains a lot of hard work before the ultimate goal of a safe supply of medicines for African patients is reached, but the commitment and actions of the authorities from fourteen African nations working with the WCO is indeed encouraging. Well done!”

Operation Biyela 2 successfully confiscated more than 13 million doses of counterfeit medications at ports in 14 African nations, according to an International Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Drugs (IRACM) press release. According to IRACM, customs agents from Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Togo participated in the exercise over a ten day period (26 May to 4 June 2014). Most of the fake medications were caught by customs agents in in Benin, Tanzania, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and most shipments were sent from either China or India, IRACM reports.

The IRACM report notes that “a majority of the pharmaceutical drugs seized by African customs authorities are related to primary care (32% analgesics, 17% anti-inflammatory drugs, 5% antibiotics), as well as drug therapy (17% of the intercepted products were anti-tuberculosis drugs).”

In its third year, this effort at cooperation between the WCO and IRACM aims to provide at least a picture of how counterfeit medication trafficking is unfolding in the targeted African nations.

By S. Imber