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Cablegate: Egypt: Counterfeit Drugs Threaten Public Health, Ipr

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON KIPR ETRD EG
SUBJECT: Egypt: Counterfeit Drugs Threaten Public Health, IPR

Sensitive but Unclassified, Not for Internet Distribution

1. (U) Summary: GOE health and security officials are
seeking assistance from US pharmaceutical companies to
combat counterfeit drugs, which threaten public health,
cost an estimated 1 billion Egyptian pounds ($190 million)
a year, and violate the intellectual property rights of the
innovative drug companies. Pfizer hopes to launch a pilot
project in Egypt for combating counterfeits. End Summary.

---------------
Dangerous Fakes
---------------

2. (U) According to estimates by Egyptian pharmaceutical
representatives, Egyptians spend 1 billion Egyptian pounds
($190 million) a year for counterfeit medicine out of 10
billion pounds spent overall on pharmaceuticals. A study
by the pharmaceutical company Aventis indicated that 18% of
drugs sold in Egypt are counterfeit.

3. (U) Most of the counterfeit products found locally are
unsophisticated copies with either no active ingredient or
potentially dangerous ingredients such as ink jet dye,
ecstasy, amphetamines, and boric acid, Pfizer
representatives said in a meeting in the Embassy.
Counterfeits of Viagra - the world's most pirated drug -
generally contain none of the actual drug.

4. (U) Pfizer representatives told us that it is difficult
for them to estimate the magnitude of counterfeiting here
because most drugs are sold over-the-counter. Therefore,
tracking doctors' prescriptions to determine the total
market size is not possible, although it might be possible
to track actual sales. Regardless, there are many possible
shipping routes into Egypt, and parallel importation -
importing a drug that had been manufactured for sale in
another country - is not illegal. According to Pfizer,
while most counterfeits here are imported from China,
India, and Pakistan, investigators discovered two
counterfeit drug manufacturing plants in Cairo in recent
years.

------------------
GOE Investigations
------------------

5. (SBU) The Ministry of Interior's Anti-counterfeiting
and Trade police conduct about 250 drug raids and seizures
a year, according to the head of the unit, General Mohamed
Ibrahim Abou Shady. The maximum penalty for counterfeiting
drugs is 3-7 years, but the offender is most often only
fined and released. Fines for a first offence range from
5,000 to 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($900-$3,600).

6. (SBU) Investigations begin with inspections initiated
based on tips from informants, or complaints by rights-
holders. Police also maintain a watch-list of past
offenders and common locations for counterfeit drugs.
Suspect drugs must be removed from pharmacy shelves until
cleared by the MOH. Abou Shady indicated that police
generally coordinate with health inspectors, although
pharmaceutical companies report that such coordination
breaks down at times, resulting in cases being dismissed
from court.

7. (SBU) Abou Shady has coordinated with Pfizer as well as
companies in other sectors such as HP, Cannon, and GM to
help investigators distinguish between legitimate and
illegitimate products. Even so, he said investigators
often have trouble identifying pirated products because of
inadequate packaging security features and difficulties in
getting information on legitimate products from
rightholders. He hopes to increase training and
coordination with the private sector to identify original
products.

------------
Future plans
------------

8. (U) Coordinating closely with the GOE, Pfizer intends
to sponsor training and conferences for Egyptian officials
to raise awareness on IPR crimes, give officials global
perspective on IPR issues, and help them identify
counterfeit products. A Pfizer official told us that Egypt
will be a pilot product for their anti-counterfeiting
initiatives, which could include training for Ministry of
Interior investigators as well as about 45 inspectors under
the Ministry of Health's Drug Policy and Planning
Committee.

9. (SBU) Comment: Private-sector engagement with the GOE
has proven effective to combat other IPR violations, such
as Microsoft's efforts against computer software piracy in
Egypt. In this case, Pfizer could help the GOE save lives
as well as protect intellectual property. We will continue
to work with the GOE and private sector support these
efforts.

Scobey

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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