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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chirac demands action on fake medicines

By Andrew Jack in London


Jacques Chirac, France’s former president, is to spearhead a political campaign for an international treaty to criminalise fake ­medicines as concern grows over their threat to public health around the world.

Mr Chirac is set on Monday to unveil in Cotonou in Benin a declaration signed by African and Asian heads of state calling for a United Nations convention to fight fake medicines by imposing tough penalties, strengthening manufacturing and distribution controls and improving awareness.

The move marks a fresh step by regulators, governments and medical groups in taking more aggressive action as criminal groups exploit poor controls, high profits and limited enforcement to diversify from narcotics into the business of fake medicines.

It also marks one of the most high-profile initiatives so far by Mr Chirac’s ­foundation, established after the end of his term as French president, and dovetails with long-standing French concerns over counterfeits.

“Informal co-operation is not enough,” said Mr Chirac in a written interview with the Financial Times. “Fake medicines have become a real market that is poised to overtake that for narcotics. It is essential to mobilise all parts of society. An international convention ratified by the UN will provide a framework to attack criminal networks.”

While counterfeit drugs are a relatively small problem in the US and Europe – found mainly as “lifestyle medicines” purchased over the internet – some studies have suggested that most malaria drugs and other essential treatments for serious illnesses in parts of Africa and Asia are fake and killing patients.

A study released last week showed 60 per cent of drugs sold at private pharmacies near the border of Cambodia and Thailand were substandard or counterfeit.

Mr Chirac’s efforts are focused on sub-standard medicines that do not contain the claimed and approved ingredients, side-stepping the issue of generic drugs that meet approved quality standards but which may violate the patents of the companies that originally developed them.

Officials hope the Cotonou declaration, to be endorsed by senior African Union leaders and ministers from other countries, will trigger discussion at the World Health assembly next May, ahead of a conference at the end of next year in Geneva.

Some countries including Nigeria have long advocated an international convention, while others have preferred instead to focus on less formal co-operation.


There may also be political tensions in approving and enforcing a convention from countries including China and India, where many fake medicines are produced for domestic and international use.

Mr Chirac’s foundation has a planned budget of €1.5m ($2.2m, £1.4m) for next year. Donors include pharmaceuticals group Sanofi-Aventis and Alain Mérieux, the owner of biotech group.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.
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'The Amazing Race' reveals which team loses travel documents

Sunday's new episode of "The Amazing Race" features a situation that almost always means doom for one of the competing teams: somebody loses their passport while in Cambodia. We've really only seen passports be a major issue once in the past, when Dallas & Toni ended up finishing fourth on the race after being unable to find their passport in Russia. Thankfully they eventually ended up getting out of the country, but the mistake ultimately cost them the race.

Who will it happen to this week? If you don't want to know any potential spoilers for this next episode, then now is the time to turn away.

According to the web preview on the show's official site, best friends Zev & Justin end up being the team guilty of breaking this cardinal rule. Is it a surprise? Not really, since we've already seen Justin lose a clue in the water during this season. However, it would be too soon to say that this mistake could end up with them going the way of Dallas & Toni. The show isn't shying away from revealing the identity of the team that's making this blunder; at the same time, though, usually the "Race" doesn't tease the eliminated team so blatantly in a preview. Read more!

17 die as river ferry sinks in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – An overloaded river ferry capsized on its way to a Buddhist ceremony in Cambodia, killing 17 passengers in a tributary of the Mekong River, an official said Sunday.

Kham Phoeun, governor of Kratie province, said the boat was crammed with 30 passengers when it capsized in midstream in northeastern Kratie province, said Police Maj. Leng Sarum.

He said 13 passengers were rescued after the accident, which happened while the boat was headed to a ceremony at a Buddhist temple Saturday night.

"There was no storm or heavy rain when the boat sank. The accident happened because it was overloaded with passengers," the officer said, speaking by telephone near the site of the incident.
He said the bodies of 17 dead, which included 14 women and two children under the age 5, were being given to relatives.

Late last month, Typhoon Ketsana swept into central Cambodia and toppled dozens of rickety homes, killing at least 18 people and injuring some 100 others.

Saturday's accident happened about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of the capital Phnom Penh.
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U.S. Senator Lugar to Push for Free-Trade Agreement With Asean

By Simeon Bennett

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senator Richard Lugar said he plans to introduce legislation aimed at negotiating a free-trade agreement with the Association of South East Asian Nations.

Trade restrictions with Myanmar, an Asean member, should not hinder the U.S. from pursuing a trade deal with the rest of the regional group, the Indiana Republican said in an Oct. 9 statement on his Web site.

The U.S. signed a trade and investment framework with Asean in August 2006, aimed at boosting economic ties with the region and possibly leading to a free-trade deal.

“China, India, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea have already finalized FTAs with Asean and are sharpening a competitive edge over the U.S. in Southeast Asia,” Lugar said. “The United States should proceed to develop a comprehensive strategy toward engaging ASEAN in serious FTA discussions.”

President Barack Obama may meet Asean leaders at an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore in November, Lugar said.

Asean includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simeon Bennett in Singapore at sbennett9@bloomberg.net
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