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Interpol seizes fake drugs in SE Asia

Interpol seizes fake drugs in SE Asia

AN Interpol investigation code-named "Operation Storm" has resulted in the seizure of more than US$6.65 million in counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs, part of a five-month sweep across Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, the global police agency announced Monday.

Global sales of fake drugs are predicted to reach $75 billion by 2010, an increase of more than 90 percent since 2005, the World Health Organisation said.

According to a 2007 estimate by the World Health Organisation,  200,000 people die in Southeast Asia each year from fake medicines, adding that counterfeit drugs account for 30 percent of the pharmaceutical market in developing nations, compared to one percent in developed nations.

About 90 fake drugs are commonly found in Cambodia, including medicines for treating malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, acccording to the government.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng said Asian nations will have to work together to combat the problem.

"We are taking measures to crack down on the illegal trafficking of fake medicines.... Local authorities and neighbouring countries [are] investigating the trafficking of fake medicines and related crimes by increasing the exchange of information on production and distribution lines and the identity of criminals and their distribution devices," he said.

The last study into fake drugs undertaken by the government was in 2001, when it was discovered counterfeits accounted for 13 percent of the pharmaceutical market. In the same study, 1,300 pharmacies and 1,000 health clinics were found to be operating illegally.

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