Illegal heroin and fentanyl exports from Mexico to the United States are on the rise, according to World Drug Report 2017 compiled by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and backed by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Speaking in Mexico City, as the report, which tracks narcotics consumption and production throughout the world, was released Thursday, INCB President Raul Martin del Campo noted the significant increase of drug use around the world, highlighting the harvest and trafficking of illicit drugs in and from South America.
“Poppy harvest that you see in so many countries throughout South America, as you do in Mexico, en route to the United States has increased by a significant amount as registered in the report,” he said. “Fentanyl precursors have also been detected as entering the country, and that is having a consequence with respect to the composition of these drugs that are being exported illegally.”
Fentanyl interceptions skyrocket
Seizures of fentanyl, a significant contributor to the epidemic of overdose deaths, by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection increased from less than 1 kilogram in 2013 to about 200 kilograms in 2016, the INCB said.
Mexico is under increasing pressure to combat drug trafficking after more than 25,000 homicides were recorded last year across the country as rival drug gangs increasingly splintered into smaller, more violent groups. (VOA)
When Moustapha Dieng came down with stomach pains one day last month he did the sensible thing and went to a doctor in his hometown of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, Africa.
The doctor prescribed a malaria treatment but the medicine cost too much for Dieng, a 30-year-old tailor, so he went to an unlicensed street vendor for pills on the cheap.
“It was too expensive at the pharmacy. I was forced to buy street drugs as they are less expensive,” he said. Within days he was hospitalized — sickened by the very drugs that were supposed to cure him.
Tens of thousands of people in Africa die each year because of fake and counterfeit medication, an E.U.-funded report released on Tuesday said. The drugs are mainly made in China but also in India, Paraguay, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.
Almost half the fake and low-quality medicines reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) between 2013 and 2017 were found to be in sub-Saharan Africa, said the report, also backed by Interpol and the Institute for Security Studies.
“Counterfeiters prey on poorer countries more than their richer counterparts, with up to 30 times greater penetration of fakes in the supply chain,” said the report.
Substandard or fake anti-malarials cause the deaths of between 64,000 and 158,000 people per year in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.
The counterfeit drug market is worth around $200 billion worldwide annually, WHO says, making it the most lucrative trade of illegally copied goods. Its impact has been devastating.
Nigeria said more than 80 children were killed in 2009 by a teething syrup tainted with a chemical normally used in engine coolant and blamed for causing kidney failure.
For Dieng, the cost can be measured in more than simple suffering. The night in hospital cost him more than double what he would have paid had he bought the drugs the doctor ordered.
“After taking those drugs, the provenance of which we don’t know, he came back with new symptoms … All this had aggravated his condition,” said nurse Jules Raesse, who treated Dieng when he stayed at the clinic last month.
Fake drugs also threaten a thriving pharmaceutical sector in several African countries.
That has helped prompt Ivory Coast – where fake drugs were also sold openly – to crack down on the trade, estimated at $30 billion by Reuters last year.
Ivorian authorities said last month they had seized almost 400 tonnes of fake medicine over the past two years.
Able Ekissi, an inspector at the health ministry, told Reuters the seized goods, had they been sold to consumers, would have represented a loss to the legitimate pharmaceutical industry of more than $170 million.
“They are reputed to be cheaper, but at best they are ineffective and at worst toxic,” Abderrahmane Chakibi, Managing Director of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi’s sub-Saharan Africa branch.