Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bloomberg: Interpol Investigation Leads to Drug Seizures, Arrests in Asia

Bloomberg News has posted an online story reporting on a huge seizure of millions of counterfeit unit of sale packs of counterfeit medications. The operation coded named Operation Storm II was coordinated by Interpol and included counterfeit medications from the branded manufacturers Pfizer, Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Teva.

The entire Bloomberg News story appears below:

Police seized more than 20 million packs of counterfeit medicines, arrested at least 33 people and closed more than 100 illegal pharmacies in a series of raids in eight Southeast Asian nations coordinated by Interpol.

Counterfeit versions of Pfizer Inc.’s Viagra for erectile dysfunction, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s blood thinner Plavix and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.’s morning-after pill Plan B were among the products seized, Aline Plancon, an Interpol officer who coordinated the raids, said Jan. 26 in an e-mail from Jakarta. The haul also included fake aspirin, antibiotics, malaria treatments and hair-loss medicines, she said.

The seizures and arrests, part of an investigation called Operation Storm II, are the second round of raids in two years in Asia as international and local police crackdown on widening sales of fake medicines.

Asia is the world’s biggest producer of all counterfeit products, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in 2007 report. About 40 percent of 1,047 arrests related to fake drugs worldwide in 2008 were made in Asia, according to the Washington-based Pharmaceutical Security Institute.

In raids between July and November, police in Cambodia, China, Laos, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam seized more than 12.2 million packs of fake drugs, Plancon said. An additional 8 million packs of medicines that had passed their expiry dates, were unregistered, or had been diverted from their intended destinations were also confiscated, she said.

Authorities from the eight countries involved plan to form a network to exchange information; coordinate enforcement and forensic investigations; and raise awareness in the region, Plancon said. Interpol is also creating a unit focused on fighting fake drugs, she said.
The new unit will help “dismantle the transnational criminals who threaten lives,” Plancon said. “This crime is a plague that needs to be addressed seriously and consistently in each and every country and region of the world.”

In 2008, police seized more than $6.7 million of counterfeit medicines and made 27 arrests in 200 raids across the region as part of Operation Storm I.

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