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French customs seize record fake drugs haul from China

Containers from China being unloaded at Le Havre
Containers from China being unloaded at Le Havre AFP/Robert François

Ten tonnes of fake Viagra, Cialis and other medicines were part of a record seizure by French customs in the northern French port of Le Havre, it was announced Thursday. The shipment from China was Europe's largest-ever haul of counterfeit medicines.

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The packages, containing 10 tonnes of counterfeit drugs mostly for diarrhea and erectile disfunction, were supposed to be Chinese tea and were on their way to Belgium.

Officials annouced on Thursday that 2.4 million tablets were found in containers coming from China at the end of February.

They were to be sold as aspirin, Viagra and Cialis and other medicines but the supposed aspirin and diarrhea medication were in fact sugar, while the erectile disfunction drugs did contain active components but in different doses to the original.

Most of the counterfeit drugs sold in France are for erectile disfunction with fraudsters profiting from purchasers' reluctance to buy them in pharmacies.

The previous European record haul was also at Le Havre.

More than 1.2 million packets of aspirin were seized in May last year.

In 2013 medicines made up 18 per cent of the 7.6 million items seized by French customs, the largest group of items ahead of clothing at 14 per cent.

The vast majority of counterfeit drugs do not pass through Europe.

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