Southern Africa Regional Police Chiefs Coordination Organisation

Trafficking of Illicit Goods

Pharmaceutical Crime

There has been a significant increase in the manufacture, trade and distribution of counterfeit, stolen and illicit medicines and medical devices in recent years. Patients across the world put their health,even life, at risk by unknowingly consuming fake drugs or genuine drugs that have been doctored,badly stored or that have expired. The fight against illegal medicines is crucial in order to ensure the quality of products in circulation and to protect public health on a global scale.Southern Africa presents a vast market for counterfeit, substandard, and illicit medicines. Counterfeit antimalarial, antibiotic, anti-retro viral, anti-fungal and dermatological products are prime examples of these improper medicines. The adulteration of medicines used in the treatment of serious and life-threatening diseases is of particular concern, while substandard medicines (poor quality, purity,strength) also possess great danger in Africa, as they have the adverse effect of contributing to the development of drug-resistant diseases.

TRENDS

Pharmaceutical crime includes the manufacture, trade and distribution of counterfeit, stolen and illicit medicines and medical devices. Patients across the world put their health, even life, at risk by unknowingly consuming fake drugs or genuine drugs that have been doctored, badly stored or expired. The adulteration of medicines used in the treatment of serious and life threatening diseases is of a particular concern, while substandard medicines (poor quality, purity, strength) also poses a great danger in the region.

The fight against illegal medicines is crucial in order to ensure the quality of products in circulation and to protect public health. Southern Africa presents a vast market for counterfeit, substandard, and illicit medicines, the most common being antimalarial, antibiotics, and antiretroviral, antifungal and dermatological products. Criminal syndicates take advantage of the fact that countries have challenges in availing enough medicines to the public.

COLLABORATIVE INITIATIVES

In order to address the growing threat of pharmaceutical crime, INTERPOL in conjuction with SARPCCO, organized Operation Giboia II together with seven countries in Southern Africa – Angola, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – as well as the INTERPOL Regional Bureau in Harare, Zimbabwe. Operation Giboia II took place on 19-21 August 2015 and resulted in the seizure of approximately 943,864 units (171 tons) of illicit medicines, at an estimated value of approximately USD 3,2 million. Moreover, 556 suspects were arrested or investigated, at least 37 investigations were launched, 509 searches were carried out and 39 illegal outlets were closed down. Altogether, the operation involved the deployment of more than 2,700 officers and other personnel. The medicines seized were mainly antibiotics, anti-malarial, analgesics, ED medication, steroids, and anti-retrovirals. The vast majority of these medical products were unregistered, expired and suspected counterfeit medicines

SARPCCO INITIATIVES

In order to address the growing threat of pharmaceutical crime, SARPCCO carries out regional operations. Three regional operations have so far been conducted under the auspices of INTERPOL, in 2013, 2015 and 2018, specifically targeting medicines and medical devices. It is worth noting that during the regional joint operations that are carried out annually, pharmaceutical crime is one of the targeted priorities. These regional initiatives are implemented in conjunction with other international organisations interested in the fight against pharmaceutical crime, such as INTERPOL, the World Customs Organisation, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organisation.SARPCCO has designed programs that are aiming to capacitate Law Enforcement Agents in the Region as well as conducting operations to weed out trafficking of illicit goods and pharmaceutical crimes. Training workshops and seminars have been conducted and shall continue to capacitate Law Enforcement Agents in the implementation of expert knowledge during operations in the Southern Africa Region.
Abel Joao
SARPCCO Illicit Drugs Desk
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