European Commission Releases Report on Customs Interventions

July 29, 2010
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

In 2009, the European Commission (EC) Customs Union seized 11,462,533 medicines and medical products for suspected violations of intellectual property (IP), according to the Commission's annual report on EU Customs Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, which was published last week.

In 2009, the European Commission (EC) Customs Union seized 11,462,533 medicines and medical products for suspected violations of intellectual property (IP), according to the Commission’s annual report on EU Customs Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, which was published last week. After some of the products were released, 7,423,824 products remained under suspicion, according to the report.
 
The EC Customs Union seized fewer products in 2009 (i.e., 117,959,298 articles) than in 2008 (i.e., 178,908,278 articles). The number of customs interventions involving goods suspected of infringing IP and the number of goods detained decreased compared with the previous year. In 2009, the Customs Union stopped more than 43,500 cases of goods, totaling 118 million articles, but in 2008, officials stopped 49,000 cases, or 178 million articles. The EC attributes the decrease largely to the global economic downturn.
 
On the other hand, the number of the EC Customs Union’s interventions has increased steadily since 2001, from a level of more than 5000 cases in 2000 to more than 43,500 cases in 2009. The EC says that the increase results from enhanced cooperation between customs and the private sector and from improved customs procedures.
 
The EC Customs Union suspected about 90% of all articles seized, including nonpharmaceutical products, of violating trademarks. Officials suspected that roughly 5% of seized goods infringed patents. In about 47% of cases, officials destroyed apprehended goods. A court case was initiated for 23% of the goods, and no action was taken about 6% of the time.
 
So-called lifestyle medicines such as diet pills or Viagra are the most popular counterfeited medicines, according to the EC. Other therapies also are counterfeited, however, including products such as painkillers, antidepressants, antiallergy treatments, antianxiety medicines, HIV therapies, and drugs to control hypertension. The United Arab Emirates was the main source of seized medicines, according to the EC.
 
Enforcing IP rights helps protect consumers against potentially dangerous goods and aids the promotion of research, innovation, and job creation worldwide, according to the EC. The body soon will implement the 2009–2012 EU Customs plan to combat IP infringements, which includes tactics such as legislation and data tools, business cooperation, collaboration with international authorities, and raising awareness and communication.
 
Because China was the country of provenance for 64% of all seized goods in 2009, the EU and Chinese regulators have developed a customs plan for IP enforcement. That plan includes the exchange of statistics about general trends, customs networks in key ports and airports, cooperation with other law-enforcement agencies, and partnerships with the business community.
 
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