$2.2m in fake drugs seized in Myanmar

Myanmar has cracked down on counterfeit medicines, with recent raids seizing 2.8 billion kyats ($2.2m) worth of fake drugs and production materials.

Eleven pharmacies and 22 warehouses in Myanmar's commercial hub Yangon were raided between 31 August and 12 September, where fake and expired drugs were found, alongside materials used in counterfeit drug production.

Two markets in Yangon - Bogyoke Market and Shwe Pyae Sone Market - were also raided and counterfeit drugs were confiscated.

Fourteen people were charged for their alleged involvement and could face fines of up to 500,000 kyats and seven years in prison.

In total, 44 different types of fake medicines were seized in the sting. Drugs were found to have been bottled with counterfeit labelling and legitimate expired drugs had had labels reprinted to change the expiry date.

"Counterfeit drugs, expired medicines, different kinds of fake BPI [Burma Pharmaceutical Industry] stamp documents, chemical liquids that are used for producing counterfeit drugs, medical pouch-sealing machines used for packing medicine and pill counting machines," were seized along with a fake trademark stamper, General Aung Soe, deputy home affairs minister, said.

The raids followed a surveillance operation after a report from the Ministry of Industry noted a number of suspect locations believed to be involved in counterfeit production and distribution.

The Myanmar authorities have pledged to put a stop to the production and distribution of counterfeit drugs in the country and there have been previous raids on pharmacies searching for unregistered and counterfeit drugs. Authorities have emphasised the penalties, saying these activities will not be tolerated.

"These people are distributing and selling imitation medicines and if the public buys and uses them, significant harm can occur. We will take action against all the relevant people in this case," General Soe said.

Union industry minister U Khin Maung Cho said: "The imitation medicine business cannot be forgiven and it can cause people trouble. So we are announcing [the consequences of counterfeiting] clearly today."

Improved anti-counterfeiting measures at the state-run manufacturer Myanmar Pharmaceutical Factory - previously the Burma Pharmaceutical Industry - will take place, along with the formation of a surveillance team, authorities said.

Back in March the World Health Organization warned that counterfeit hepatitis C drugs were being sold in Myanmar after being notified by a local NGO. The fakes, branded as Ledso and Dakavir, were labelled as manufactured by Egyptian pharma firm Pharco, which denied manufacturing either brand.

About 85 per cent of Myanmar's western medicines are imported from its neighbours India, Thailand and China.

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