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3 November 2020AmericasRory O'Neill

US agencies to work together against COVID-19 fakes

US federal agencies are to step up their cooperation on stemming the flow of counterfeit drugs, medical devices, and dietary supplements into the country through the international mail system.

The commitment was made in a memorandum of understanding signed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The target of the agencies’ joint operations will include illegitimate or fraudulent COVID-19 products which could pose a risk to public health.

“International mail and express consignment are major conduits for drug smugglers. This has become more challenging for law enforcement as volumes have skyrocketed, and because of e-commerce and rapid shipping logistics,” said CBP acting commissioner Mark Morgan.

“This partnership with FDA and ICE will ensure a whole-of-government approach that will provide additional resources and tools to disrupt these dangerous drugs from reaching our communities,” Morgan added.

CBP said in May that most counterfeit or unapproved COVID-19 testing kits entering the US have been sent through the postal system.

An update last month revealed that CBP had intercepted hundreds of thousands of counterfeit facemasks and related products worth more than $2.5m in the six weeks leading up to October.

“The volume of counterfeit COVID-19 facemasks is astonishing and further evidence that predatory scammers will take advantage of an international pandemic to line their greedy pockets by peddling illicit and potentially dangerous products as legitimate COVID-19 personal protective equipment,” said Casey Durst, director of field operations for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office.

The inter-agency operations will see more information shared between the different authorities in order to better identify trends in incoming packages.

There will also be “increased scientific presence” at high-volume facilities, a joint statement said.

The FDA says it has destroyed almost 13 million units (including tablets and capsules) of unauthorised goods at international mail facilities since April 2016.

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