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Fake medicine conference

Fraudulent medicines present a three-pronged concern in terms of health threats, development challenges, and the role of organised crime on a transnational scale. So the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) heard at a meeting in Vienna.

At the invitation of UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov, World Customs Organization (WCO) Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya spoke at the opening session of the UNODC conference on the Illicit trafficking of fraudulent medicines, at the Vienna International Centre on 14 February 14. Heads of international and national bodies, as well as non-governmental groups, active against fraudulent medicines were invited to explore this form of trafficking from an organised crime point of view.

Secretary General Mikuriya detailed the challenges that confront Customs, as the first line of defence at borders, in their efforts to protect citizens from the health and safety risks posed by fake medicines. He mentioned eight major challenges, namely the lack of consumer awareness, insufficient knowledge by front-line Customs officers, not enough co-operation with the private sector, the need for better co-ordination with other agencies, inadequate legal frameworks to empower Customs, unregulated free trade zones, the growing number of small parcels as a result of Internet trade, and the unsatisfactory level of political will.

He also explained the responses of the Customs community to these challenges, including efforts to increase data and information availability through the use of technology such as the Interface Public Members (IPM) – a WCO anti-counterfeiting tool, coordination of operations in close partnerships with health, police and other agencies (including the private sector), the enhancement of cooperation with other international bodies (including the UPU that changed its Convention to be able to provide postal data to Customs in advance).

Several participants from the health community, in recognition of the role played by Customs at the border, urged that Customs’ contribution should be made more visible to provide opportunities for cooperation with them in both policy and implementation.

The WCO Secretary General took the opportunity to have bilateral meetings with the UNODC Executive Director and the Austrian Customs administration.

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