African customs urged to use IPM tool
Following a massive Africa-wide crackdown on counterfeit medicines, the World Customs Organisation has urged customs officials to use its online and mobile IPM system to stop the flow of fake drugs.
The World Customs Organization (WCO) in partnership with the Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM) said in a report that the results of its recent Operation BIYELA had been ‘alarming’.
The 10-day operation was carried out in April this year in 23 African countries. More than one billion articles and in particular 550 million doses of illicit, potentially dangerous if not deadly medicines were intercepted including: antibiotics, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, medicines for high blood pressure and diabetes and food supplements. The total value of the medicines collected is estimated at more than $275 million US Dollars. These results reveal the extent of the traffic of illicit medicines in Africa and the danger this poses to the health of people across the African continent.
The customs administrations of Algeria, South Africa, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Togo participated in the operation.
More than one billion counterfeit or illicit products were discovered inside 145 containers. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Togo are the countries where the most significant results were attained in terms of volume. The majority of intercepted shipments originated from East and South Asia and the Middle East. "
"Operation BIYELA has brought irrefutable proof of the major role that customs play in protecting consumers," declared Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the WCO. "Apart from the interception of dangerous products, this international operation allows us to gather precious intelligence on the traffic of these products, and therefore reinforce our inspections," he added. "The success of customs in only 10 days and at 23 African ports provides a horrifying idea of the scourge that the traffic of fake medicines represents on this continent. It is time that all national and international authorities mobilize to protect the life of patients," declared Jacques Franquet, Director of the IRACM.
To prepare for the operation, customs agents were trained to recognize the technical characteristics of products likely to be counterfeited, as well as risk-analysis techniques. The training was provided by the WCO with the support of the IRACM, Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines and experts of the concerned industrial sectors, such as the pharmaceutical sector. This advanced training was provided with the help of the IPM (Interface Public Members), a tool developed by the WCO that provides fast detection of counterfeited items. The IPM contains key information on the branded products supplied by the licensees (photos, technical description, transport itinerary, packaging characteristics, contact people for the brand in question, etc.) and is accessible to customs agencies 24 hours a day.
IPM, an online tool also available on mobile, allows operational data concerning products to be communicated directly to customs officers on the ground. Operation BIYELA aimed, among other things, to train customs experts in new risk analysis techniques and targeting and encourage customs agents to use the IPM system in real situations.