France seizes falsified drugs labelled as Chinese tea

Customs signCustoms officers in France have confiscated millions of fake aspirin, erectile dysfunction and diarrhoea drugs from China in what they claim is the largest recorded seizure of falsified medicines in the EU.

Around 2.4m knock-off pharmaceutical products - concealed in two containers marked as containing Chinese tea - were seized at the port of Le Havre in France on February 27.

The haul included 601 boxes of medicines, including fake versions of Pfizer's Viagra (sildenafil) and Eli Lilly's Cialis (tadalafil), and was twice the size of the previous biggest seizure (once again in Le Havre) which netted 1.2m fake aspirin products in May 2013.

In a statement French customs confirmed that some of the seized products contained no active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), which effectively constituted an "aggravated deception" of consumers. Others contained levels of the API that did not correspond to the authentic medicine which could lead to health risks.

The incident is notable because the seized medicines were discovered in a bulk shipment. Many of the falsified medicines entering the EU arrive in small parcels posted directly to consumers who have purchased them online. 

Increasingly the illicit shipments arrive in parcels that contain numerous smaller packs - pre-addressed to the customer - so that it appears they are shipped by a domestic rather than an overseas organisation.

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