Fake COVID-19 tests add to fake Viagra in Tatarstan

The coronavirus epidemic stirred up swindlers’ activity who sell or make fake medicines and medical goods. Specialists of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Tatarstan have noted a 1,5-fold growth of detected cases of falsification in this sphere in 2020. Moreover, some cases are linked with fake tests for COVID-19 and antiviral medicines, inspectors said.

From 5 to 8 years of prison for fake medicine

This year, a group of swindlers who tried to sell counterfeit antiviral medicines for 115,000 rubles was arrested in a special operation in Nizhnekamsk District. The swindlers packed them into a box with the name of a well-known manufacturer of different medicines. As a result, the criminals faced criminal prosecution, while all the fake products were taken away and destroyed.

A similar case took place last year too, head of the Department of Economic Safety Management of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Tatarstan Dmitry Kozlov told journalists. Kazan “Paracelsus” manufactured another famous medicine the representative of the ministry didn’t name not to harm the reputation of the official producer in an old abandoned place. The damage of the rights holder exceeded a million rubles.

In June, the police arrested a group of people who were going to sell 100 fake tests for COVID-19 for 165,000 rubles during Counterfeit special operation.

There have also been attempts to import banned medicines from Egypt and Turkey to the republic to illegally sell them to the population later. As Kozlov noted, mostly sole traders deal with it. The people who wished to earn on their compatriots’ health were sentenced for two years.

As Dmitry Kozlov said, nine cases of sale and production of medicines and goods have been detected during Pangeya and Counterfeit operations. Trials were held in two of them. The swindlers were punished, while the fake assortment of medicines was completely destroyed. Three cases of production of fake pills and medical goods and the same number of sale of counterfeit were registered last year.

By the way, law tightened the liability for illegal turnover of falsified medicines, medical goods and supplements six years ago: swindlers will not only have to pay a fine from 1 to 3 million rubles but also иу imprisoned from 5 to 8 years and more if significant damage was done to a person’s health or he died from taking fake medicines. Those who sell medicines without a corresponding licence on it will also face punishment. By the way, everybody can check if a seller, a pharmacy has it in stock on the website of Russia’s consumer rights protection watchdog.

Investigation on Lovelace case

As it became known during the press conference, swindlers try to make money not only thanks to the medicines that are in high demand during the pandemic but also by selling medicines boosting men’s potency that contain such pharmaceutical substances tadalafil, vardenafil and sildenafil that don’t have a state certificate in Russia. They, in itself, don’t harm one’s health, however, as they weren’t indicated when registering supplements, they are recognised as falsified medicines in Russia.

According to head of the Department of State Certification and Licensing of the watchdog’s Tatarstan office Liliya Garayeva, three batches of falsified supplements, analogues of Viagra that were brought from China were detected in 2018. All 1,500 packs found in chain stores and pharmacies were destroyed, while the court imposed the importers a fine of 1,5 million rubles.

Last year, over 2,000 packs of Lovelace medicine were withdrawn from shelves, but this time it was made by a Russian Plant Resources company containing tadalafil — a medicine to treat erectile dysfunction. In 2020, the Courts of Arbitration of Moscow and Saint Petersburg imposed four fines at 3,5 million rubles for turnover of the falsified Lovelace. The Tatarstan office of Russia’s consumer rights protection watchdog told its colleagues and other regions of Russia about the fake supplement, Liliya Garayeva said:

“We followed the whole chain — from our republic to the manufacturer, tracked all suppliers, found the supplier of the feedstock and manufacturer, it was faced administrative prosecution, the batch was withdrawn from the sale not only here but across Russia.”

It is dangerous to buy supplements through accidental websites, on different exhibitions where the medicines are sold by an ordinary person or according to information from special newspapers advertising miraculous medicines that guarantee an instantaneous cure for all ailments that are left in post boxes because they all don’t have a licence, while consumption of these supplements is also fraught with a health risk, Garayeva stressed.

The problem isn’t as big as some mass media interpret it

As for the websites offering users various medicines and food supplements that have been thousands on the Internet today, Russia’s health care watchdog tracks their activity. So according to the Tatarstan office’s head Lyubov Shaykhutdinova, her employees have found 200 websites selling uncertified medicines or substances that can’t be sold over-the-counter. 189 of them have already been banned by the country’s media watchdog.

This autumn, the majority of pharmacies not only in the republic but also in other regions of Russia faced a shortage of medicines prescribed to treat COVID-19 or other diseases. Every pack’s mandatory labelling like in case of alcohol was named one of the reasons for the collapse. Initiators think that the automated registry of medicines in Russia will help getting rid of fakes. Shaykhutdinova admitted it was hard enough to label billions of packs when demand is so high. The system was down and just suspended pharmacies’ operation and causes indignation of the population.

“Pharmacy workers had to wait for an answer about a medicine for 3-4 hours that the medicine was really legally manufactured. In the end, the Russian government decided to notify about labels. In other words, a pharmacy when selling a medicine doesn’t wait for a reply from the manufacturer, inserts a code in the system, and it becomes clear if the medicine is legal or not.”

As for fake medicines, according to the republican health care watchdog, “the problem isn’t as big as some mass media interpret, they write about 20%, 30% and 60%, the numbers are completely unreal”:

“In general we detect 0,1% of medicines a year that are illegal and falsified. The packs total billions, but 200,000 packs of medical goods and around 15,000 packs of illegal medicines have been withdrawn in Tatarstan. They all have been destroyed.”

By Angelina Panchenko

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