HomeNewsBriefColombia Pharmaceutical Trafficking ‘Has 1,000% Profits Margins’
BRIEF

Colombia Pharmaceutical Trafficking 'Has 1,000% Profits Margins'

COLOMBIA / 28 OCT 2013 BY NATALIE SOUTHWICK EN

The counterfeit pharmaceutical trade in Colombia could be as profitable as the illegal drugs market, according to Colombia's customs chief, illustrating how organized crime groups are taking advantage of a growing global enterprise thought to be worth billions of dollars.

In the last year and a half, Colombian authorities have seized more than five million units of counterfeit drugs intended for resale, worth a total of more than $2 million, reported Caracol. Gustavo Moreno, director of Colombia's tax and customs police, said profit margins were between 500 and 1,000 percent, making the trade potentially as lucrative as selling illicit drugs.

These counterfeit medications fall into two main categories: contraband and fake, reported Vanguardia. Contraband medication is typically sold under a false label or past its expiration date. Fake drugs, are usually medicine packaging filled with anything from flour to cement. Both have potentially deadly effects.

According to authorities, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru are the main countries of provenance for illegal pharmaceuticals trafficked into Colombia. The medications arrive hidden in shipments of other imported goods, usually through La Guajira, Norte de Santander, Nariño, Choco and Valle departments. They are then commonly distributed to shops in "San Andresitos" -- shopping areas offering contraband at heavily discounted prices.

InSight Crime Analysis

Producing or selling fraudulent drugs has become a major criminal enterprise in recent years, responsible for one million global deaths annually, according to world police agency Interpol.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has said that in some parts of Latin America, as much as 30 percent of the drugs available on the market are counterfeit, and the region has the third highest rate of pharmaceutical crime incidents after Asia and Europe, according to the NGO Pharmaceutical Security Institute.

Because pharmaceutical trafficking is a relatively new phenomenon, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what organizations are behind the trade, but there have been some indications that established criminal organizations are entering the market, particularly in Mexico, which has a thriving trade in exporting illegal pharmaceuticals into the United States.

Trafficking routes and growing markets have also been documented in countries like Paraguay and Costa Rica, which has seen a dramatic spike in false drugs imported from Nicaragua.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 17 DEC 2012

A Colombian informant, who reportedly played a key role in the stealth operation to pass a guerrilla commander a pair…

COCA / 25 MAR 2021

The sheer size of Colombia's reserves makes them a target for the illegal clearing, appropriation and sale of protected land.

COLOMBIA / 1 SEP 2015

Multiple reports throughout Latin America indicate that Colombian loan sharks are allegedly expanding their operations throughout the region. …

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.