Daily Revolt

December 17, 2007

Counterfeit Drugs’ Path Eased by Free Trade Zones

Another argument against free trade:
Three months ago, when the authorities announced that they had seized a large cache of counterfeit drugs from Euro Gulf’s warehouse deep inside a sprawling free trade zone here, they gave no hint of the raid’s global significance.

But an examination of the case reveals its link to a complex supply chain of fake drugs that ran from China through Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the Bahamas, ultimately leading to an Internet pharmacy whose American customers believed they were buying medicine from Canada, according to interviews with regulators and drug company investigators in six countries.

The seizure highlights how counterfeit drugs move in a global economy, and why they are so difficult to trace. And it underscores the role played by free trade zones — areas specially designated by a growing number of countries to encourage trade, where tariffs are waived and there is minimal regulatory oversight.

The problem is that counterfeiters use free trade zones to hide — or sanitize — a drug’s provenance, or to make, market or relabel adulterated products, according to anticounterfeiting experts.

“Free trade zones allow counterfeiters to evade the laws of the country because often times the regulations are lax in these zones,” said Ilisa Bernstein, director of pharmacy affairs at the United States Food and Drug Administration. “This is where some of the Internet sellers work,” she added.

Read the entire NY Times article...

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