By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com October 30 2002 1:00 AM ET
Law enforcement officials from four European countries are cooperating in an investigation into "a wide web of trafficking" schemes that resulted in discounted anti-HIV drugs intended for delivery in Africa being rerouted and sold at higher prices in Europe, The New York Times reports. Investigators from the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and France met on October 29 at Europol, the European police agency, to pool evidence they've collected during the past month.
The investigation stemmed from reports that up to 28 shipments containing about 3 million doses of GlaxoSmithKline's anti-HIV drugs Combivir, Epivir, and Trizivir were diverted by European wholesalers from Africa and sold in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom between July 2001 and July 2002. The drugs were intended for distribution in five central African nations. Investigators believe there is "a whole chain of businesses and individuals involved" in the fraud. The investigators are also looking into the possibility that AIDS groups in the African countries actually received the medications and either resold them to raise money to buy other anti-HIV medications or profited directly from their sale.
In an effort to curtail future problems with drug deliveries to Africa, the European Commission is set to publish new enforcement guidelines calling for more border checks and tighter customs procedures for exported and imported medications.