PARIS Police seized about 10 metric tons of counterfeit medicines and arrested 80 people in a sweep across eastern Africa, international police agency Interpol said on Thursday.
The operation, which Interpol coordinated under the umbrella of the World Health Organization (WHO) over the last two months, included the arrest of suspects involved in the manufacture, trafficking and sale of fake medical products.
Production and sale of counterfeit drugs is on the rise in rich and poor countries especially Africa, where counterfeit medicines are commonly available to treat life-threatening conditions such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. [ID:nLDE64I26E]
"By working together collectively, countries can take concrete action on the ground to curb a crime that is still low-risk and high-profit for the criminals involved while representing a very real danger to the general public," said Aline Plançon, the head of Interpol's medical and pharmaceutical crime unit.
Research and development-based pharmaceutical companies say that counterfeit medicines pose a threat to patients and they are not driven by commercial interest in fighting the scourge.
There were 1,693 known incidents of counterfeit medicines last year, a rise of 7 percent, according to the Geneva-based International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) whose members include Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis.
Police, customs and drug regulatory authorities across Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zanzibar took part in the bust, Interpol said. (Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Charles Dick)