The biggest consignment of fake medication ever found in Europe has been seized in Belgium en route from India to Africa.
The shipment, including copies of a strong painkiller made by a German company and a Swiss anti-malarial drug, were found after customs officers noticed spelling mistakes on the labels.
The confiscated medicines had been sent in three shipments by an Indian company in Mumbai and were bound for two unnamed companies based in Togo.
Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper reported that the drugs were probably intended to be distributed across West Africa.
“Thanks to this seizure, we have saved lives,” Le Soir quoted Lieven Muylaert, spokesman for Belgium’s customs department, as saying.
The UN says fake medicines represent 10% of the world market and make up 30% of the African market.
Oxford’s Centre for Tropical Medicine said that not only are counterfeit pills useless to treat malaria, the tiny amount of active drug artesunate they do contain could contribute to the malaria parasite developing an immunity to genuine doses.
Copyright PA Business 2008