DUBAI, May 31 — Shocking but true: The Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Department of Dubai Customs has confiscated significant quantities of counterfeit medicine — including the commonly used drug Panadol. The operation was carried out in coordination with the UAE Ministry of Health.
Addressing a Press conference at the Dubai Customs office yesterday, Mohammed Matar Al Mari, Executive Director of Customs Operations, said: “Dubai Customs has embarked on innovative strategies to thwart attempts to smuggle counterfeit medicine into the country.”
Yousuf Ozair, Manager, Customs Preventive Department, said: “According to statistics, injected medicines, which include beauty products such as Botox and steroids, accounted for the bulk of counterfeit medicines seized last year. Also seized were assorted medicines, Viagra tablets, herbal medicines, medicated stickers, and medicines used for treating Aids.”
About 41 per cent of counterfeit drugs seized in 2005 came from the Far East, while 35 per cent came from North Asia. The Middle East, Africa and Europe regions accounted for eight per cent each, he added.
He also said that the government was looking at ways to maintain direct coordination with the governments of various countries where these fake drugs originate so that the menace can be nipped at source.
The department also seized counterfeit electrical medical appliances and medicated stickers used for diabetics’ blood-testing device.
According to the World Health Organisation, counterfeit medicines are part of the broader phenomenon of substandard pharmaceuticals.
The difference is that they are deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to identity and/or source. Counterfeiting can apply to both branded and generic products and counterfeit medicines may include products with the correct ingredients but fake packaging, with the wrong ingredients (some of which may be toxic), without active ingredients or with insufficient active ingredients.
In advanced countries, the most frequently counterfeited medicines seized recently were cholesterol-lowering medicines, drugs used for treatment of growth hormone deficiency and anti-cancer druge. In developing countries, the most common counterfeited medicines are those used to treat life-threatening conditions such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Antibiotics are also often found among counterfeit medicines.
Dr Issa bin Jakka Al Mansouri, Director of the Department of Drug Control, UAE Ministry of Health, said that non-prescription medicines, including Panadol, had been banned from being sold in groceries by the MoH because of suspicions they were fake.
“Everybody is aware of such commonly used medicines, therefore, they should buy the medicine only after they have carefully chedcked the label to make sure that the product is not fake. To avoid buying fake products, people should notice the difference in price tags and read the accompanying leaflets. “Some pharmacies might sell fake products but that is rare because MoH inspectors make frequent checks,” he added.
Yousuf Ozair, Manager, Customs Preventive Department, Dubai Customs, said the entry of counterfeit products in the country was a result of ignorance and pharmacies stocking medicines without proper licenses. “As far
as drug companies are concerned; we are interested in protecting their property rights as well as committed to implementing international agreements and federal laws to make Dubai safe from counterfeit goods,” he said.
The executive and judicial authorities, he added, should impose the strongest possible penalties in all such cases involving the sale of fake drugs and medicinal products.