International partnership to fight trafficking in fraudulent medicines

14 February 2013

At the invitation of Executive Director Yury Fedotov of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya of the WCO spoke at the opening session of the Conference on the Illicit Trafficking of Fraudulent Medicines, which was held at the Vienna International Centre on 14 February 2013. Heads of international and national organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations, active in the fight against fraudulent medicines were invited to explore this form of trafficking from an organized 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 frontline Customs officers, not enough cooperation with the private sector, the need for better coordination 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 organizations (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 important role played by Customs at the border, urged that Customs’ contribution should be made more visible to provide opportunities for cooperation with them at both the policy and the implementation levels.

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