Nearly $18 million in discounted AIDS drugs that were intended to be delivered to Africa were intercepted by drug wholesalers in 2001 and 2002 and diverted to Europe, where they were sold at higher prices, The Washington Post reports. About 30 shipments containing 3 million doses of GlaxoSmithKline's anti-HIV drugs Combivir, Epivir, and Trizivir were diverted by European wholesalers to markets in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom between July 2001 and July 2002. The drugs were intended for delivery to five Central African nations. Customs inspectors in Belgium discovered the fraudulent practice in July when they intercepted a shipment of the drugs sent from Senegal to a Dutch wholesaler.
"We've been fighting so hard to get these medicines, and for someone to take them from the hands of people who are dying, to make money for themselves, it's terrible, a scandal," said Sarata Ottro Zirignon-Touré, deputy chief of staff to the president of Ivory Coast. Chris Viehbacher, president of pharmaceuticals for Glaxo's European division, said the company will continue its discounted anti-HIV drug program despite the recent problems because the "human need is too big." The company will press for tighter border controls and adherence to existing trade regulations. Dutch authorities say they plan to launch an investigation and prosecute anyone involved in diverting the drugs from Africa.