A set of articles by investigative reporter Walt Bogdanich published in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune on December 17, 2007 describe how international free trade zones such as those in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Mauritius and Panama are easing the passage of counterfeit drugs. Experts cited in the articles indicated that counterfeiters use free trade zones to hide or sanitize a drug's provenance or to make, market or re-label adulterated products. Indeed, according to Ilisa Bernstein, Director of Pharmacy Affairs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "free trade zones allow counterfeiters to evade the laws of the country because often times the regulations are law in these zones." This is because most shipments of goods that go through free trade zones do not officially enter the country where the zone is located, and are therefore subject to fewer bureaucratic entanglements and regulation. In addition, counterfeiters can use the zones as a way to hide where their products are originally sourced. The articles singled out Dubai as a free trade zone that is particularly attractive to counterfeiters because (a) of its strategic location; (b) of the high volume of goods that move through it; and (c) there is some confusion as to whether normal Dubai customs have jurisdiction in the free trade zones although the authorities in Dubai have shown a willingness to act when drug company investigators tip them to possible counterfeits. According to the articles, nearly a third of all counterfeit drugs confiscated in Europe in 2006 came via the United Arab Emirates.
For more information, please see: