Illegal pharmaceutical products online: unnecessary risks, criminal profits


With Operation Pangea XI by Interpol, which lasted a week during the month of October, police authorities, customs and health regulators from 116 countries took action against the illegal online sale of medication and medical products, which led to 859 arrests all over the world and requisition of potentially dangerous drugs valued at 14 million American dollars.

Among the potentially dangerous medication intervened during this operation were false anti-cancer medication, fake painkillers, unusable medical syringes, etc. Almost a million packets were inspected, with 500 tonnes of illegal pharmaceutical products confiscated all over the world.

These include anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, erectile dysfunction pills, hypnotics and sedatives, steroids, slimming pills and medication to treat HIV, Parkinson’s and diabetes. Over 110,000 medical devices were also confiscated, including syringes, contact lenses, audio phones and surgical instruments.

Criminals also tried to avoid the detection of illegal medication with false labelling of deliveries as original products. For example, over 4 million non-labelled ibuprofen pills were intercepted in Argentina after having been declared to be a sample, and in the United Kingdom about 150,000 strong sleeping pills were retrieved in deliveries labelled as clothes, bedding or food.

Falsified medical devices confiscated during the operation included 737 expired cardiac surgical instruments that were introduced via Macedonia.

During the operation 3,671 web links were closed, including websites, social network pages and online markets.

The operation also spread the word about possible associated dangers with the purchase of online pharmaceutical products via videos, leaflets, exhibitions and talks in hospitals and educational centres.

Interpol coordinated the operation with the support of the World Customs Organisation WCO), the Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime(PFIPC), the Working Group of Enforcement Officers(WGEO), Europol, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute(PSI), as well as Twitter, Facebook and credit/debit card companies.

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