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10 June 2015Asia

Philippine police raid 'fake' drug call centre

Police in the Philippines have raided a call centre in Manila whose operators had allegedly been selling counterfeit drugs, including copies of Pfizer’s Viagra (sildenafil), over the phone.

According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Asia, which witnessed the raid, 150 computers were confiscated but no arrests were made at the time.

Officers on the scene reportedly said that they had found a training manual for the call centre’s employees to learn how to sell Viagra and other medicines.

The manual apparently included scripts that said customers would “receive the highest standard of pharmaceutical care”.

It also reportedly said: “Our company only uses licensed physicians… rest assured you are receiving the same medicine as you would at your local pharmacy.”

The police also found a ledger with handwritten feedback from callers in the US, according to the newspaper. The WSJ said police found one entry that read: “He said the last pills he received were fake.”

The WSJ report said that people are increasingly ordering and renewing their drug prescriptions over the phone, and will contact call centres for customer services.

Many of the legitimate services are thought to be based in the Philippines.

The WSJ added that operators may not know that they are selling counterfeit products.

According the paper, the police carried out the raid after months of investigation.

Many counterfeit drugs contain either a very small amount, or no active ingredient at all, the WSJ said. They can be made with harmful substances including boric acid, floor wax and rat poison, it added.

A spokesperson for Pfizer said it has a focused anti-counterfeiting campaign to “detect, disrupt and deter” major manufacturers and distributors of counterfeit Pfizer medicines.

“The key to the success of that programme is the effective partnerships we have built with enforcement authorities around the world, including the Philippine National Police (PNP).

"In this particular case, we were asked by the PNP to provide assistance on product verification as part of evidence gathering for the case.”

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