Interpol’s multi-million-euro deal to play policeman for the drugs giants

By Mathieu Martinière et Robert Schmidt

The international police cooperation organization Interpol earlier this year entered into an agreement with the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms for a joint programme to halt the circulation of counterfeit drugs, for which the firms will pay Interpol 4.5 million euros. But the backdrop to what may appear a laudable exercise to crack down on bogus drugs that yearly claim hundreds of thousands of lives is the drugs industry’s campaign against the production of low-cost generic medicines in emerging economies, and which provide a lifeline to many in poor countries. The relationship between French drugs giant Sanofi and Interpol raises further questions about the deal. Has Interpol become a tool for the pharmaceutical giants to maintain a stranglehold on access to medicines? This investigation by Mathieu Martinière and Robert Schmidt is published jointly by Mediapart, monthly magazine Lyon Capitale and German weekly Die Zeit.

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On the surface, the three-year agreement between Interpol and 29 pharmaceutical firms, announced in March, appears a laudable project to eradicate the major international scam of bogus drug trafficking that causes the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people every year, mostly in developing countries.