Belgian Customs Seize Record Haul of Fake Pills from India

They were sent in three shipments by a company based in Mumbai and were bound for two companies in a western African country.

The biggest seizure ever of counterfeit medical pills in Europe occured in Belgium on Oct. 2. Customs authorities at the Brussels airport have seized over two million counterfeit medical pills from India which were bound for Africa.

Blister packs of the fake medications -- copies of Tramal, a strong analgesic made by German pharmaceutical company Grunenthal, and Swiss-based Roche's antimalarial treatment Fansidar -- were discovered in large bags, the customs service said.

They were sent in three shipments by a company based in Mumbai and were bound for two companies in a western African country.

"To our knowledge, this is the biggest seizure of counterfeit medicine ever carried out in Europe," Lieven Muylaert, spokesman for the Customs and Excise department said, adding that he could not immediately evaluate the cargo's worth on the open market.

Customs officers' suspicions were aroused first because the pills were not transported in boxes, and then by spelling mistakes on the packaging.

According to World Health Organization estimates, fake medicines represent 10% of the global pharmaceutical industry at some 45 billion euros (62 billion euros) and have started to penetrate drug markets in the developed world.

The amount of counterfeit medical drugs intercepted at EU borders rose 51% last year after soaring by 400% in 2006.

In France such seizures, mainly of Viagra from India and on its way to Africa or Latin America, shot up be 31% last year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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