9 October 2014Asia-Pacific

‘Worrying trend’ of Aussie counterfeit pharmaceuticals

Criminal gangs in Australia are branching away from traditional forms of counterfeiting and are targeting pharmaceuticals, an Australian customs official has revealed.

Tim Fitzgerald, regional commander for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Services for New South Wales, pointed to a “worrying trend” of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and said the number of fakes will only increase.

Fitzgerald told 7.30, a current affairs programme produced by broadcaster ABC, that the counterfeits posed a “major risk” to public safety.

During a tour of a factory housing goods that had been confiscated following X-rays at shipping containers, Fitzgerald said it was no longer luxury handbags and DVDs being confiscated but branded drugs, including Viagra.

The programme also quoted pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its senior medical director for Australia, David Grolman.

Grolman said Viagra was his company’s most popular product with counterfeiters and that there have been 6,000 seizures made in Australia in the past decade.

Professor Natalie Stoianoff, from the Australia-China Institute at the University of Technology, Sydney, said the risks to consumers of buying fakes were so great that the university would continue facilitating and working on an international dialogue.

"Pharmaceuticals are coming in that are not real pharmaceuticals," Stoianoff said.

"It could cause [people] harm; they could die from it. There are cosmetics that are being produced ... you put them on your face; you could end up with burns on your face."

Last year, LSIPR reported that Pfizer had announced it would be marketing its erectile dysfunction pill Viagra online in a bid to prevent consumers from buying counterfeit products.

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