France seizes record stash of fake Viagra, pills from China

PARIS, April 10 Thu Apr 10, 2014 11:45am EDT

PARIS, April 10 (Reuters) - French customs said on Thursday they had seized a stash of 10 tonnes of fake aspirin and erectile dysfunction and diarrhoea drugs from China in what they billed as the European Union's biggest-ever seizure of counterfeit medicine.

Officials seized the 2.4 million counterfeit drugs, hidden in two containers and declared as Chinese tea, at the port of Le Havre in late February, the customs office said in a statement.

A customs official told Reuters that four brands, including Viagra and Cialis - products of Pfizer and Eli Lilly - had been counterfeited.

The fake aspirin and anti-diarrhoea drugs contained no active ingredient other than sugar, while the fake erectile dysfunction drugs did contain an active ingredient but dosed differently than the original product, the official said.

The shipment, estimated to be worth around 1 million euros ($1.38 million), had been imported from Belgium but at this stage it was not known to which markets it was destined.

French customs caught some 1.4 million fake drugs last year - the most commonly seized products ahead of clothes.

But shipments as big as the latest case are exceptional. In 96 percent of cases, counterfeit drugs crossed borders in modest postal packets, and the drugs seized are mainly fake drugs for erectile dysfunction, the customs official said.

"We're talking about people who don't dare to go to the pharmacy, who order the drugs online at attractive prices but have no idea what they're getting," he said. ($1 = 0.7234 Euros) (Reporting by Natalie Huet; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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