A combined operation involving Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda targeting counterfeit medical products resulted in 83 police cases being opened and the prosecution of several individuals suspected of being involved in the illicit trafficking of medical products.
Police, customs, drugs regulatory authorities and other stakeholders from all three countries, supported by INTERPOL and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT), took part in Operation Mamba II which ran throughout August 2009.
More than 270 premises including pharmacies, hospitals, warehouses and shops across the three countries were specifically targeted during the operation which focused on medicines for life threatening diseases as well as common counterfeit medicines found in Eastern Africa including anti-malarial, antibiotics, analgesics, anti-virals and erectile dysfunction drugs.
Operation Mamba II resulted in the seizure of hundreds of fake, unregistered and banned products which pose a potential serious risk to public health. In Uganda and Kenya, medicines donated to governments and marked ‘Not for sale’ were found in private supply chains, as well as Government-provided medicines for public hospital distribution only.
The discovery of similar counterfeit products in all three countries has also led to the identification of criminal links across the region. The success of Operation Mamba II also underlines the benefits of developing multi-agency partnerships amongst key stakeholders such as police, National Drug Authorities, customs and other national bodies such as the Fair Competition Commission and Office of Presidency in Tanzania. Private sector partnerships developed with the participating countries were also important in relation to the provision of intelligence and technical support in order to facilitate investigations.
Counterfeit medical products are becoming increasingly widespread across the world, particularly in Africa. In September 2008, the first Operation Mamba was launched to assist national authorities in the region combat this growing form of criminality and to provide a platform for various law enforcement agencies to work together in identifying, targeting and arresting those responsible.
Support from the World Health Organization
Both Mamba I and Mamba II took place under the umbrella of the WHO IMPACT which is a global coalition of stakeholders which aims to develop international collaboration between WHO member states, international organizations, NGOs, law enforcement agencies and health professional groups.
The operations carried out in Africa were supported by INTERPOL’s Operational Assistance, Services and Infrastructure Support (OASIS) Africa programme, funded by the German government to help build capacity and support police operations throughout the region.