Paraguay's Prosecutor General has warned that counterfeit drugs controlled by organized crime are endangering lives, shedding light on a lesser-known criminal enterprise thought to be worth billions of dollars globally.
Javier Diaz Veron said the sale of fraudulent drugs was controlled by criminal organizations, which used the profits to help facilitate or finance other crimes, such as drug trafficking, terrorism and money laundering, reported news outlet ABC.
"We can confirm that we are talking about a crime that kills people," said Diaz. Some of the counterfeit drugs did not contain the correct components to treat the relevant illness, or contained toxic chemicals.
Most of the fake drugs were for sexual disorders, weight loss and muscle gain, said Diaz.
Diaz also said criminals are peddling drugs that are illegal in Paraguay such as Cytotec, a drug used to treat gastric ulcers that can also be taken as emergency contraception or as a day-after pill. Administering Cytotec is only allowed when a woman's life is in danger.
InSight Crime Analysis
The fraudulent drug trade is "one of the very newest forms of global criminal challenges," according to the United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which estimates it is now worth billions of dollars annually. Interpol launched a global partnership with the pharmaceutical industry to counter the growing trade earlier this year.
It is estimated that as many as 30 percent of drugs available in Latin America are fake -- drugs which in the words of UNODC's Executive Director Yury Fedotov deliver only "suffering, misery and even death." Sales of counterfeit drugs in Mexico, a significant source country, were estimated to value $1.5 billion in 2008.
Last year California's Attorney General warned of the rise of "pharma cartels" in Mexico, which sell illegally-obtained prescription drugs to customers in the US. And in May, Costa Rican authorities reported a 109-fold increase in illegally-trafficked drugs from Nicaragua since 2010.