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Brussels, 16 December 2008

Customs: Millions of illegal medicines stopped by "MEDI-FAKE" action

The European Commission has announced today the results of the "MEDI-FAKE" action, which targeted customs control on illegal medicines entering the EU. On the basis of a risk profile disseminated by the Commission, customs from the 27 Member States put special focus over a two month period on coordinated action to stop illegal medicines from entering the European Union. Among the products which were intercepted were antibiotics, anti-cancer, anti-malaria and anti-cholesterol medicines, as well as painkillers, Viagra and drug precursors. This first EU coordinated action had tremendous results, with more than 34 million illegal medicines seized. It also highlighted a number of ways of improving the fight against trafficking in illegal, dangerous or counterfeit goods. It paves the way for future similar actions.

László Kovács, Commissioner for Taxation and Customs, said: "In a two month period, Customs seized more than 34 million illegal pills, far exceeding expectations. This success shows the value of the new Community approach to risk management. It multiplies the effectiveness of customs controls, thereby better protecting citizens and legitimate business from new and increasing security and safety threats. Co-operation between customs and legitimate business proved vital."

Community risk profile applied throughout Europe

The Commission, Member States' customs experts and pharmaceutical specialists met and identified key risk indicators and high risk pharmaceuticals to be the subject of reinforced controls. These were transformed into an agreed common risk profile to target high risk traffic at all points of the external border controls.

The risk profile, together with updated information and results of the controls carried out, was communicated through the Community Risk Management System (CRMS), managed by the Commission. This ensures systematic, real-time exchange of information necessary to achieve equivalent and effective controls at the frontier. The effectiveness of the profile is continuously reinforced by new risk information obtained from immediate feedback.

The effective elements of the profile will continue to be used by Member States in the coming period.

The MEDI-FAKE action has highlighted areas where improvements can be made in the fight against imports of illegal, dangerous or counterfeit goods. It makes it evident that increasing cooperation with industry is very important.

The success of this exercise has opened the door for future similar actions in other areas where specific technical knowledge is required.

Historic seizure levels, new type of medicines stopped

Exceptional results have been achieved in many Member States, most notably Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and Spain. The range and number of illegal medicines stopped far exceeds any previous results.

The 34 million tablets seized included major seizures as:

Customs at Brussels airport registered the biggest seizure of illegal medicines ever recorded in Europe: 2.200.000 counterfeit medicine tablets were seized, of which 1.600.000 were painkillers and 600.000 were anti malaria pills.

Le Havre customs stopped a consignment of 400 000 counterfeit medicine pills and 11 million pseudoephedrine pills, a dangerous known drug precursor.


Security and safety threats cannot be countered by short operations but require consistent and targeted controls at all points of the Community at all times.

In 2005, the Community Customs legislation was amended to provide Customs with new tools to tackle the growing threat to security and safety posed by dangerous goods.

This MEDI-FAKE action is the first Priority Control Action to be implemented under the Customs Risk management Framework (see IP/06/1821) which introduced a better risk information sharing mechanism and set uniform Community risk-selection criteria for controls, supported by computerised systems.

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