Police seize 20m fake drugs in Southeast Asia

Operation Storm IIAn international police operation in Southeast Asia has resulted in the seizure of around 20 million fake and illegal medicines and the arrests of more than 30 people, according to Interpol.

Operation Storm II was carried out between July and November last year and uncovered illegal antibiotics, antimalarial and birth control medicines, anti-tetanus vaccines, aspirin and erectile dysfunction drugs, and also led to the closure of more than 100 pharmacies and illicit drug outlets. 

News of the operation came as Interpol announced the creation of a new division, the Medical Products Counterfeiting and Pharmaceutical Crime (MPCPC) unit, headed by Aline Plancon, which will support the World Health Organization’s International Medical Products Anti-counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) programme.

Plancon, who is also co-chair of the Interpol-IMPACT collaboration, said the creation of the MPCPC represented a step forward in international efforts "to harness cohesive and combined global efforts to dismantle the transnational criminal networks behind the plague of counterfeit medicines."

Operation Storm II was coordinated by Interpol-IMPACT and involved customs and medicine regulatory authorities from eight countries, namely Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as the private sector.

Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble said the operation "shows that collaboration involving public and private sector partnerships and joint international action is crucial if we are to significantly disrupt the trade in counterfeit medicines."

Around 12 million of the seized medicines were counterfeit, with the remainder found to be expired, diverted or unregistered products after being tested at Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority and the Counterfeit Drug Forensic Investigation Network (CODFIN), a laboratory network funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The de-briefing of the operation took place earlier this week in Jakarta, Indonesia, and was followed by a training course for Indonesian customs, regulators and police officers.

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