Global Times special correspondent in France: Pan Liang
In an investigation report released in Paris on January 20, the World Customs Organization (WCO) based in Belgium’s Brussels claims that their staff has seized 113 million counterfeit anti-malarial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antibiotic tablets in 16 ports in Africa in 10 days. The quantity is astonishingly huge.
According to a report in the French newspaper Le Monde, the latest inspection by WCO was carried out in September last year in countries like Nigeria, Benin, Kenya and Togo. Among them the problem ports in Nigeria and Benin accounted for more than 60% of the total number, where out of the 243 inspected containers, 150 were found to contain fake drugs. Since 2012, a total of about 400 million euros worth of counterfeit drugs have been confiscated by the WCO in four inspections conducted in Africa. At present, fake drugs have not only found their way into the streets and alleys of many African cities, but are also found in local pharmacies, hospitals and even in the warehouses of non-governmental health organizations. As per present estimates, three-quarters of these counterfeit drugs are coming from India, and the rest come from Chinese and European drug makers.
The report says that these fake drugs cause hundreds of thousands of deaths in Africa every year. These counterfeit drugs may not only lead to the death of patients without treatment, but some of the pathogens may develop drug resistance, like tuberculosis.
A spokesperson for the WCO said that the lack of penalties in the relevant local government laws opened the door for the spread of counterfeit drugs, and criminals are very clear how to make use of the legal loopholes. Chairman of the Institute of Research against Counterfeit Medicine (IRACM) also believes that without the participation of the United Nations and formulation of international treaties to combat counterfeit drugs, the judges are often unable to hold the counterfeit drug trade suspects criminally responsible. At present, the punishments in African countries in this area is minimal, hence have no deterrent effect on the counterfeit drug smuggling trade.
A Ministry of Health official from Benin who likes to remain anonymous said, the local wholesalers take the official documents signed by the Ministry of Health to the port to unload the cargo; and once the cargo is delivered, the drugs quickly get into the illegal channels, there are no further checks. In addition, the financial difficulty involved in counterfeit drug testing is another major obstacle. Counterfeit drug detectors used in developed countries cost 40,000 euros each, and testing of each ingredient of a fake drug cost of about 5 euros (about 37 RMB). There is currently no African country which can afford this cost. ▲