Belgian customs seize record haul of fake pills, from India

BRUSSELS, October 2, 2008 (AFP) – Customs authorities at Brussels airport have seized over two million counterfeit medical pills from India which were bound for Africa, the biggest such seizure ever in Europe, officials said Thursday. Blister packs of the fake medications — copies of Tramal, a strong analgesic made by German pharmaceutical company Grunenthal, and Swiss-based Roche’s antimalarial treatment Fansidar — were discovered in large bags, the customs service said in a statement.

They were sent in three shipments by a company based in Mumbai and were bound for two companies in a western African country after transitting in Casablanca, Morocco, it added.

“To our knowledge, this is the biggest seizure of counterfeit medicine ever carried out in Europe,” Lieven Muylaert, spokesman for the Customs and Excise department told AFP, adding that he could not immediately evaluate the cargo’s worth on the open market.

Customs officers’ suspicions were aroused first because the pills were not transported in boxes, and then by spelling mistakes on the packaging.

According to World Health Organisation estimates, fake medicines represent 10 percent of the global pharmaceutical industry at some 45 billion euros (62 b