WCO seizes $40m worth of illicit medicines in Africa, Ghana among big haul countries

Over 80 million doses of illicit medicines worth $40 million have been seized in 16 African countries, and Ghana was among four countries where the biggest hauls were made, the World Customs Organisation (WCO) said October 25, 2012.

The illegal doses impounded by customs officers who searched containers in the 16 countries’ ports include antimalarial and antiparasitic drugs, antibiotics, cough syrups, and “even contraceptive pills and infertility treatments”, according to the WCO.

The operation named VICE GRIPS 2 was put together by the WCO in partnership with the Institute of Research against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM).

The 16 Customs administrations in Africa joined in the operation which was carried out from July 11 to 20, the WCO said.

“The operation was conducted simultaneously at 16 major seaports on the East and West coasts of Africa from July 11 to 20, 2012, leading to the seizure of more than 100 million counterfeit products of all categories,” it stated.

The WCO continues, “Of a total number of 110 maritime containers inspected by teams of Customs officials, 84 were found to contain counterfeit or illicit products, with the biggest shipments being discovered in Angola, Togo, Cameroon and Ghana.”

It adds that the vast majority of shipments seized originated from South and East Asia and the Middle East.

These results are are said to be alarming and serve as a reminder of the scale of the traffic in illicit medicines in Africa and the danger this illicit trade represents to consumer health and safety.

During the course of the operation, customs officers on the ground, according the WCO used Interface Public Member (IPM), a tool developed to enhance the ability of officials to identify counterfeit goods by accessing key information provided by right holders.

“Through our joint efforts we are able to identify the challenges that need to be addressed, as well as the strategies that need to be employed against this illicit trade by criminal entrepreneurs,” said WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya.

High-impact operations such as VICE GRIPS enable the fight against counterfeiting to be stepped up in cooperation with right holders and other strategic partners such as health authorities, the Secretary General added.

The 16 African countries that joined the operation are Ghana, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Togo.

By Ekow Quandzie

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