A report from the European Commission shows that fake pharmaceuticals were the top articles detained by European-Union customs in 2011. Customs seized almost 115 million products suspected of being counterfeit, up from 103 million in 2010. Approximately 24% (around 27 million) of these products were medicines, compared with just over 3 million in 2010.
In 2011, there was an increase in the number of counterfeit items that could be potentially dangerous to health and safety (i.e., food and beverages, body care articles, medicines, electrical household goods, and toys). Such products accounted for 28.6% of seizures, compared with just 14.5% in 2010. The EC report attributes the increase to the large rise in medicines.
In general, the increase in the number of detained articles has been attributed to rises in postal traffic, of which medicines formed a large percentage. Approximately 36% of detained items in postal traffic were medicines.
According to the report, China is the main source of the counterfeit products, accounting for 73% of all intellectual-property infringing items. The majority of the counterfeit medicines detained by EU customs in 2011 originated from China (68%) and India (28%). In 2010, almost all of the medicinal products identified by customs came from India (93%). In 2011, most articles were intercepted in Bulgaria, Italy, Greece, Belgium, and the Netherlands, compared with Greece, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Portugal in 2010.
Apart from medicines, other top categories for counterfeit products were packaging materials and cigarettes.
In a statement, Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for Taxation, Customs, Anti-fraud and Audit said, “Customs is the EU's first line of defence against fake products which threaten the safety of our citizens and undermine legal businesses. Today's report shows the intensity and importance of the work being done by Customs in this field. I will continue to push for even greater protection of intellectual property rights in Europe, through our work with international partners, the industry and Member States."