More than 40 countries have taken part in an international week of action targeting the online sale of counterfeit and illegal medicines to raise awareness of the associated health risks, resulting in arrests across the globe and the seizure of thousands of potentially harmful medicines.
Focusing on websites supplying illegal and dangerous medicines, Operation Pangea III is the largest Internet-based action of its kind in support of the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT). It was co-ordinated by INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical crime (PFIPC), the Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers (HMA WGEO), the pharmaceutical industry and the electronic payments industry.
Carried out between 5 and 12 October and involving police, customs and national medicines regulators with support from Internet Service Providers (ISPs), payment systems providers and delivery services, the global operation targeted the three main components abused in the illegal website trade: the Internet Service Provider (ISP), the electronic payment system and the delivery service.
During the operation which saw the 45 participating countries send intelligence to a dedicated operations centre at INTERPOL's General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, Internet monitoring revealed 694 websites engaged in illegal activity, 290 of which have now been shut down. In addition, some 268,000 packages were inspected by regulators and customs, almost 11,000 packages were seized and just over 1 million illicit and counterfeit pills were confiscated - including antibiotics, steroids, anti-cancer, anti-depression and anti-epileptic pills, as well as slimming pills. Some 76 individuals are currently under investigation or under arrest for a range of offences, including illegally selling and supplying unlicensed or prescription-only medicines.
The week of action in Denmark
In Denmark, the operation was coordinated by the Danish Medicines Agency and carried out in close cooperation with SKAT, (the Danish tax and customs authorities), and the Police, focusing on the components enabling illegal online trading of medicines.
Throughout the week, websites engaging in illegal online trading of medicines have been monitored. This has led to the referral of a number of websites to INTERPOL. Leading up to the operation and during the week of action, searches at the premises of companies engaging in illegal online trading of medicines led to the seizure of illegal and counterfeit medicines.
At Copenhagen Airport, inspections of packages were carried out along with an awareness-raising campaign coordinated by SKAT with participation from the Danish Medicines Agency to inform travellers of the regulations regarding importation of medicines from countries outside the EU/EEC.
The operation once again addresses the cross-border problems of illegal online trading and the considerable consumer risks associated with buying medicines from websites that are not authorised to sell any kind of medicines.
For further information, please contact Matilde Kyst Behrens on firstname.lastname@example.org or +45 4488 9183 or Kim Helleberg Madsen on email@example.com or +45 4488 9399.
Danish Medicines Agency, 14 October 2010