Authorities at Zurich airport are reporting their largest seizure of fake pharmaceutical drugs after discovering one million counterfeit anti-anxiety pills this past Friday. According to Swiss officials, the pills that contained no active ingredients resembled the drug Xanax, manufactured by Pfizer.
"А counterfeit medicine is one which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabeled with respect to identity and/or source,” states the World Health Organization (WHO). “Counterfeiting can apply to both branded and generic products and counterfeit products may include products with the correct ingredients or with the wrong ingredients, without active ingredients, with insufficient active ingredients or with fake packaging."
Swiss customs uncovered four crates filled with over 880 lbs. of counterfeit medication during a flight from China to Egypt, Reuters reported. While the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products (Swissmedic) states that fake drug imports in Switzerland have declined in recent years, the WHO revealed that 10 percent of medications in developing countries are counterfeit.
The trade of counterfeit medicine across Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East is reportedly a business worth billions of dollars. In some cases, this fraudulent operation could turn deadly when the medication contains hazardous or unknown substances. Thankfully, the pills seized at the Zurich airport included no active ingredients.
"Analyses in the Swissmedic laboratory revealed that the drugs, which are prescribed to treat symptoms of acute anxiety, contained no active ingredients whatsoever," Swissmedic said in a statement. "According to experts, the drugs would be unrecognisable as counterfeits at a first glance."
Back in July 2012, Chinese police seized $182 million worth of counterfeit medicine in one month during a countrywide sweep. Drugs found during the seizure included medication for diabetes, high blood pressure, and even rabies. Unlike drugs found at the Zurich airport, most of the medication did contain harmful substances.