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UN watchdog concerned about ‘rogue internet pharmacies’

Growing sophistication of organised drug trade,rise of 'rogue internet pharmacies' and high opium harvest in Afghanistan are prominent issues figuring in a UN watchdog report.

Written by Agencies | New York | Published: February 20, 2009 4:43:31 pm

The growing sophistication of organised drug trade and rise of ‘rogue internet pharmacies’ along with high opium harvest in the restive Afghanistan are the prominent issues figuring in a UN watchdog report.

Annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) highlights the practice of setting up of fake pharmaceutical businesses by criminal groups to buy the chemicals needed to manufacture illicit drugs,including methamphetamine,amphetamine and MDMA,also known as ecstasy.

Melvyn Levitsky,a member of the INCB,said that another cause for concern is the appearance of “illegal rogue internet pharmacies and the ability to purchase both legal and in some cases illegal drugs or seed,for example for marijuana,over the Internet.”

The Vienna-based agency noted that many of the fictitious companies are set up in Africa,which ship ephedrine and pseudoephedrine chemicals to Mexico,where methamphetamine production supplies the large market in the US.

Anybody with a Paypal account or credit card could buy drugs through a “phoney consultation with a so-called doctor by e-mail,” Levitsky said.

West Africa has become a major hub for smuggling cocaine from South America into the growing European market due to its geographical location and its weak government structures. The report also praised countries of the region,such as Senegal for taking measures to address the problem,including stiffer penalties for trafficking in an effort to halt the erosion of the country’s political and social structures.

The INCB warned that insecurity in Afghanistan has allowed the strife-ridden nation to continue to produce over 90 per cent of the world’s opium,despite an almost 20 per cent reduction in the amount of land used in poppy cultivation in 2008.

Afghanistan’s neighbours suffer from the adverse effects of the illicit export of opium,especially as the trade passes out of the north of the country and fans into other parts of the region.

“A large amount goes through Iran,which has had the largest seizures in the world,” Levitsky said,adding,”it also has the largest opiate using population in the world… estimated at about three million people.

“That is a number that is,for example,larger than the total number of heroine addicts and abusers of heroine in the United States.”

An independent body,INCB was established in 1968 in accordance with the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961.

The Board’s 13 members are elected by the UN Economic and Social Council and serve in their personal capacity providing information to the general public and experts around the world on matters of drug control.

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