SPAIN / UK Four people were arrested recently in Spain, and two in the UK, as the result of an international operation against bogus medications that lasted several months. The suspects were allegedly importing counterfeit drugs from Asia, mainly China and Singapore, according to a report by Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). These were supposedly being distributed through Internet to clients all over Europe. In Britain alone the haul included tablets worth around €150,000, and including counterfeit versions of Pfizer’s Viagra and Eli Lilly’s Cialis, both used to treat erectile dysfunction, as well as the withdrawn anti-obesity drugs rimonabant and sibutramine. Spain was allegedly being used as a supply base from which distribution took place.>>>
The risk posed by counterfeit medicines - which may be laced with dangerous chemicals or contain the wrong amounts of active ingredients or else none at all - were thrown into the spotlight by the recent discovery of fake versions of Roche’s Avastin in the United States.
That case shocked regulators and the pharmaceutical industry since it showed criminals moving into the business of faking complex injectable drugs.
The World Health Organization estimates that less than 1 percent of medicines available in the developed world are likely to be counterfeit. Globally, however, the figure is around 10 percent, while in some developing countries as much as a third of medicines are estimated to be bogus.