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Fake medicines from India seized in Europe

Over half a million packets of fake medicines, most of them from India, were seized by European customs officials during 2005// , according to officials here.

The fake medicines include Viagra, antibiotics, medicines to treat cancer and high cholesterol and condoms. A sample that was investigated revealed that what was being passed off as a cardiovascular drug contained a mixture of brick dust.

"A secret wave of dangerous fakes is threatening the people in Europe," said Laszlo Kovacs, the EU Taxation Commissioner.

He said that counterfeiting and piracy remained a major concern for the public and legitimate manufacturers.

The latest European customs statistics released Saturday said that in 148 operations last year, customs officers intercepted 560,598 packets of fake medicines. The seizures were double the 2004 rate, but there are fears that even more counterfeit products may have entered the EU undetected.

Three quarters of the cases involved fake medicines imported from India, with seven percent from Egypt and six percent from China. Other sources included Thailand, Argentina, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

The statistics revealed that customs officers across Europe uncovered 26,700 consignments of counterfeit and pirated goods, seizing more than 75 million items.

"The key is to be faster than the counterfeiters," Kovacs said. "We must quickly identify, and act to deal with, new routes of fraud and constantly changing counterfeit patterns to protect our health, safety and the economy."

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries called for tougher action at both the European and global level.

The European Commission said: "Most fakes are now household items rather than luxury goods and the high quality of fakes often makes identification impossible without technical expertise."

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