LA customs agents seize $19m in counterfeit Viagra pills

By Jenni Spinner contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: US Customs and Border Protection)
(Image: US Customs and Border Protection)

Related tags: Counterfeit, Pfizer, Viagra, Manufacturing, Erectile dysfunction drugs

Authorities discovered the fake Pfizer erectile-dysfunction tablets in one of three cargo containers full of fraudulent goods, recently arrived from China.

Counterfeiting is a high-dollar global that hurts the pharmaceutical industry, as well as other businesses. When US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents opened three cargo containers from China recently, they discovered (nestled among shoes, purses, electronics and other fake goods) more than 1m Viagra pills, with an estimated value of more than $19m; the total value of all the goods was more than $32m.

Jaime Ruiz (JR), branch chief of strategic media engagement with the CBP’s Office of Public Affairs, spoke with Outsourcing-Pharma (OSP) about the recent seized shipment, and the threat that global counterfeiting poses to the pharmaceutical industry.

OSP: Can you offer any details on how this shipment of fake goods was uncovered?

JR: Because of law enforcement sensitivities we can’t disclose details about why this particular shipment was selected for examination. However, CBP officers have multiple tools to identify suspected cargo, including sophisticated targeting systems, access to intelligence, industry partnerships, training and their own expertise. 

OSP: Do you have an estimate on the amount (volume, number of pills/vials/etc, dollar value—however you measure) of the counterfeit drugs CBP seizes annually?

JR: In fiscal year 2019 (the most recent year available) counterfeit pharmaceuticals/personal care products reached an estimated MSRP of $48,771,870; this amount represents 3% of the MSRP of all seizures. With 1,779 seizures pharmaceuticals/personal care represented 6% of all seizures.

OSP: Could you please expand upon the risks posed by counterfeit drugs to manufacturers, patients and other stakeholders?

JR: The theft of intellectual property and the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods threatens America’s innovation-based economy, the competitiveness of our businesses, the livelihoods of US workers, and, in some cases, national security and the health and safety of our consumers.  The trade in these illegitimate goods is associated with smuggling and other criminal activities, and often funds criminal enterprises.

CBP is on the frontline of IPR enforcement, partnering with industry, other federal agencies and foreign governments to fight cross-border trade in counterfeit and pirated goods. CBP’s IPR strategy is multi-layered and includes seizing fake goods at our borders, extending the reach of border enforcement through audits of importers of IPR infringing goods and cooperation internationally with our trading partners, and partnering with industry and other government agencies to enhance these efforts. 

OSP: Is there anything you’d like to add?

JR: The rapid growth of e-commerce has revolutionized the way goods are bought and sold, allowing for counterfeit and pirated goods to flood our borders and penetrate our communities and homes. Illicit goods trafficked to American consumers by ecommerce platforms and online third-party marketplaces threaten public health and safety, as well as national security.

This illicit activity impacts American innovation and erodes the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers and workers. Counterfeiting is a multibillion global problem, and CBP is here to assist and answer any questions from the public or the pharmaceutical industry.

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