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Smuggled Medicines Up 470% Last Year

2 Feb

SINGAPORE: Smuggling cases of controlled drugs rose a staggering 470 per cent last year. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said it detected 1,820 such cases in 2008, up from 320 cases a year ago.

The ICA said this was due to tighter and enhanced checks at various checkpoints.

Drugs seized included lifestyle drugs and aphrodisiac pills like Viagra and narcotic Romilar tablets. Most of the items were seized at air cargo checkpoints.

On the whole, contraband smuggling cases went up by 2 per cent from 37,800 in 2007 to 38,600 last year.

Cigarette smuggling fell from 23,800 cases in 2007 to 18,900 last year, a drop of 20.6 per cent. But such cases still made up almost half of the 38,600 contraband smuggling cases uncovered by immigration officers.

The ICA noted that smugglers are getting more creative, hiding contraband items in consignments such as bricks, sealed oil drums, soft toys, waste papers, polishing powder, between sawn timber and even among frozen fish.

There was a slight increase of 2.6 per cent in the number of smuggling cases involving security-related items. These included ricochet blade, nanchaku, gun replicas and decorative blowpipes that travellers tried to bring into Singapore last year.

Pirated-disc smuggling also rose, by 15.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, the number of illegal immigrants, overstayers and immigration offenders arrested fell between 20 and 26 per cent.

ICA attributed the continued decline in such cases to the vigilance of its officers, the use of sophisticated technology and greater community participation in programmes to reduce immigration-related offences such as harbouring illegal immigrants.

Last year, 110 of harbourers of immigration offenders were caught – down by almost half from 2007. The number of people arrested for employing immigration offenders also stayed low, at 110.

– CNA/ir

Channel News Asia

Pfizer In Talks To Buy Drugs Rival Wyeth

23 Jan

NEW YORK: The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is in talks to buy rival Wyeth in a merger deal that could be worth 60 billion dollars, the Wall Street Journal said on Friday.

Pfizer, the world’s largest drug maker in terms of revenue has been “in discussions for months” with Wyeth, maker of the paediatric vaccine Prevnar, the newspaper said citing people familiar with the matter.

Pfizer’s products include the anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor and the erectile stimulant Viagra.

The combined revenue of the two is about 75 billion dollars, the report said, noting however that a deal was not imminent.

The sources also warned that “given recent market volatility and overall economic uncertainty, the talks are especially fragile and could collapse”, the paper said.

Spokesmen from both companies declined to comment, the report said.

A merger deal could help both sides cut costs through combined back-office operations, sales, manufacturing and research and development.

Down the road, both companies are looking ahead to the expiration of patents on some of their most profitable drugs, combined with tough competition from generic drug makers.

New York-based Pfizer employs 83,400 people and has slashed 15,000 jobs since January 2007 and is preparing to cut thousands more jobs in the coming months. Wyeth, based in New Jersey, counts 46,000 employees.

– AFP/so

Channel News Asia

US Offers Viagra To Win Over Afghan Warlords

27 Dec

WASHINGTON: CIA agents are offering the potency drug Viagra and other gifts to win over Afghan warlords in the US-led war against Taliban insurgents, the Washington Post reported.

Paying for information is nothing new for the Central Intelligence Agency, but officers have started employing unusual incentives to persuade Afghan local leaders to share intelligence about the Taliban’s movements, the Post wrote, citing unnamed sources in the spy service.

“Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people — whether it’s building a school or handing out Viagra,” one CIA operative who has worked in Afghanistan was quoted as saying.

CIA agents have offered pocket knives and tools, toys and school equipment, travel visas, medical services including surgeries and sometimes the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra for Afghan chieftains, the paper said.

The aging chieftains often have up to four wives and are open to the Viagra pill as a way to “put them back in an authoritative position”, said another official.

More customary bribes such as cash and weapons can create problems, because guns may fall into the wrong hands and a sudden influx of cash can draw too much attention, agents told the paper.

Four Viagra pills transformed the attitude of one influential 60-year-old warlord who had been wary of the United States.

“He came up to us beaming,” one official told the Post.

“And after that we could do whatever we wanted in his area.”

– AFP/yt

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Ex-Bangladesh Military Ruler Could Emerge As Election Surprise

26 Dec

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s charismatic former military ruler Hussain Muhammad Ershad, ousted in 1990 and then jailed for corruption, may emerge as kingmaker after general elections on Monday.

Sheikh Hasina Wajed is widely tipped to become the next prime minister but with a third of voters casting ballots for the first time, her rival Khaleda Zia could make it a close race — leaving Ershad holding the balance of power.

The 78-year-old retired army general, who leads the fourth biggest political party, grabbed power in a bloodless coup in 1982 and ruled Bangladesh until 1990, when Sheikh Hasina and Zia worked together to oust him.

His Jatiya Party is among a 15-party leftist “grand alliance” lead by Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party, which Ershad says has promised him the presidency if it comes to power.

But analysts say Ershad’s loyalty to Sheikh Hasina is not set in stone and he may be calling the shots once the votes are counted.

“The general view is that the Awami League will win but there are a huge number of undecided voters,” said Manzoor Hasan, director of BRAC University’s Institute of Governance Studies in Dhaka.

Hasan said the polls may result in a hung parliament, with Ershad — famed for his extra-marital affairs — emerging as a kingmaker.

His personal life became a talking point in conservative Muslim-majority Bangladesh earlier this year when his estranged second wife published a book about her life with him entitled “Sleeping with the Enemy.”

In her bestseller, Bidisha described her ex-husband as a “sexual pervert”, who kept Viagra in his briefcase and regularly visited prostitutes.

A spokesman for Ershad, who has a seven-year-old son with Bidisha and two adopted adult children from his first marriage, said the politician was unfazed by the book.

“It is a story written by a disgruntled divorcee. Our leader hasn’t even picked it up,” a Jatiya Party spokesman said.

Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has used the contents of the book in a bid to discredit Ershad during campaigning for the election.

Ershad, who spent six years in jail on corruption charges after he was deposed in 1990 but was later cleared on most counts, has said becoming the country’s next president is his “ultimate dream”.

“I want to die with honour and dignity. I want to vindicate my position,” he told AFP last month.

Monday’s election is the first in Bangladesh in seven years and will end two years of rule by an army-backed government.

– AFP/yt

Channel News Asia

Health Alert Issued On "Menergy M-Essence"

12 Dec

SINGAPORE : A health product “Menergy M-essence” that is sold as an alternative to Viagra, is being recalled and anyone who has purchased the product is being advised by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) not to consume it.

HSA says that although the product which comes in the form of capsules, is labelled as containing natural ingredients, it does not declare the presence of two chemical substances, acetildenafil and acetilacid.

Both substances said the HSA can potentially cause serious adverse reactions such as heart attack, stroke and severe hypotension, especially in those with heart conditions and/or who are taking nitrate drugs.

The HSA said in a news release there have not been any reported cases of adverse reactions relating to the consumption of the product and the two chemical substances were detected by the HSA through its ongoing post-market surveillance programme.

Both acetildenafil and acetilacid are substances that are chemically similar to sildenafil, a potent prescription drug prescribed by a doctor for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction.

The HSA said it is carrying out a market recall of “Menergy M-essence” as the safety of this product is in question.

The HSA is also warning the public not to consume “Menergy M-essence” as the product is known to be distributed by individuals through multi-level marketing channels and can be bought over the Internet.

Deputy Director (Enforcement Operations) of HSA’s Health Products Regulation Group, Ruth Lee said members of the public should not purchase health products from unknown and ambiguous Internet sources.

“While HSA conducts ongoing surveillance to check the safety of health products in the market,consumers can play a vital role in safeguarding their own health by being cautious and exercising discretion in the choice of health products they buy” she said.

“Anyone who has specific medical concerns should consult a doctor instead of resorting to dubious products touting unproven claims.”

The HSA strongly advises anyone who has consumed “Menergy M-essence” to seek medical advice if they feel unwell or are concerned about their health.

-CNA/sf

Channel News Asia

Consumption Of Illegal Sex Enhancement Drugs May Cause Brain Damage

20 Nov

SINGAPORE: Illegal sex enhancement drugs may not only have no effect on performance, it can also lead to permanent disability, brain damage and even death.

A new study by the National Neuroscience Institute, in collaboration with hospitals and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), found that patients were severely affected by hypoglycemia or low blood sugar after taking these drugs.

The drugs had contained glibenclamide, a prescription medicine used for treatment of diabetes by lowering the blood sugar. Severe low blood sugar can lead to coma and death if left untreated.

Of the eight patients who were involved in the study, one has died, and five had moderate to severe disabilities.

The HSA had issued an advisory, warning consumers not to purchase sexual enhancement drugs from dubious sources.

The doctor leading the study wants more national and international collaboration to stop these drugs from entering the legitimate supply in Singapore.

Associate Professor Tchoyoson Lim, Senior Consultant Neuroradiologist, National Neuroscience Institute, said: “It is common experience that we get a lot of spam and junk mail in our email inbox.

“Many of these are advertising Viagra-like drugs and enhancement products. There is a real danger that these could find their way… into Singapore.”

– CNA/yt

Channel News Asia

Spreading The Love

24 Oct

SINGAPORE: He’s one man, with three wives, seven children and a thousand and one problems. But Bill is taking it all in stride – Paxton that is. Not that Bill Henrickson isn’t trying hard to keep it all together in the second season of HBO black comedy “Big Love”, which debuts on Monday.

Indeed, Hollywood star Paxton shares more than a first name with the polygamist he’s played since 2006. He told TODAY over the phone from Los Angeles that he could “totally be that guy”.

Said Paxton: “Yes, it is politically incorrect for anyone to say that they would love to be married to three women but hey, who wouldn’t want to be him? He is a patriarchal figure. He’s the head of his business and his household. He’s a negotiator and a multi-tasker. He is able to make love to three women. He’s superman! He’s a complete fantasy!

“And his get-out-of-jail-free card is that he’s not sneaking around with these three women. He’s upfront and committed to each of them so, in a way, it’s okay to be in love with three women.”

Added the candid actor who has starred in major blockbusters including “Twister”, “Apollo 13” and “Aliens”: “Some journalist from South America came up to me and said, ‘You are a hero in my country!'”

The controversial Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated drama series, which just wrapped up filming its third season, centres around a true believer of the practice of polygamy, and his trials and tribulations balancing the financial, emotional and romantic needs of his three wives.

The real-life father of two kids and husband to just one wife also said that he was drawn to the show by the character-driven part, the quality of the cast (which includes Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin as his three wives) and the fact that Tom Hanks was one of the producers.

“To be honest, I never thought of doing a TV series. I really enjoyed having a career in movies, and I had even started directing films. But when I read the piece, I realised how original it was, how funny and how it had a lot of heart,” he said.

“I never got to do romantic parts in films throughout my career … so with three gorgeous leading ladies, this was like hitting the trifecta! Plus, the quality of the show is so amazing. We shoot the series like a big, long movie with no ending.”

So, what do we have to look forward to in Season 2? “There are a lot of plot developments but one of them has (my character Henrickson) meeting a pie waitress and thinking maybe it’s time to look for a fourth wife! The man is a serial polygamist – very dangerous!” he said, with a laugh.

“Maybe he’s taking too much Viagra. I don’t know. He’s like a vampire, but instead of blood, he needs to have sex everyday.”

Season 2 of “Big Love” premieres on Monday, October 27 at 11pm on HBO (StarHub Ch60). –

Channel News Asia