German police launch AIDS medicine probe

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German federal police said Thursday they had launched a probe into several pharmaceutical distributors suspected of importing cheap AIDS vaccines from Africa and selling them at inflated prices.

The German radio station NDR said the vaccines under investigation came from South Africa, via Belgium and Switzerland, to Germany, where they were allegedly repacked and sold.

The scam was reportedly worth tens of million of euros (dollars).

"The medicine was supposed to go to aid organisations to treat HIV-positive patients in South Africa," said Oliver Giebel, a spokesman for AOK, a health insurance firm.

The German AIDS group (DAH) said it was furious at the accusations, stressing that HIV-positive would have been deprived of crucial medicine.

"If vaccines from southern Africa have really ended up on the German market, this shows the criminal intent of the perpetrators," said Winfried Holz from the DAH.

According to NDR, the alleged fraud came to light when a patient bought a medicine packet which proved empty. A subsequent investigation showed both the packaging and the instruction had been faked.

© 2011 AFP

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