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Counterfeit drugs

Counterfeit drugs

Around 35% of the medication sold in the Middle East is fake, compared to just 1% in the US. Kipp examines the threat posed by this $75 billion global trade, and what regional policymakers are doing about it.

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March 15, 2010 7:50 by



One of the region’s biggest-ever seizure of counterfeit drugs occurred in 2007, when Dubai Customs seized five million sexual stimulant and sedative tablets worth more than AED20 million. Officials reportedly confiscated copies of the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor, counterfeit versions of the antibiotic Augmentin, as well as fake Levitra, used to treat erectile dysfunction.
In Syria, 65 suspects were arrested in a bust that netted millions of dollars worth of fakes, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. Seized goods included fake breast cancer, leukemia, and blood thinning medications, including copies of legitimate drugs by leading manufacturers such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche Holding AG, Pfizer, Novartis AG, and Sanofi-Aventis SA.  In the case of one shipment bound for Egypt, officials confiscated counterfeit copies of a leukemia drug, with a street value estimated at around $4 million – equal to around half the annual sales of the brand, according to press reports.  The Syrian drug ring is believed to have serviced supply routes into Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and Egypt.
Last month in Beirut, local press reported details of multimillion dollar fake drug seizures in several Beirut neighborhoods.  Lebanese customs authorities described homemade factories engaged in the large-scale production of fake pharmaceutical materials.


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