LYON, France, Nov. 19 In response to an ever-increasing number of websites supplying dangerous and illegal medicines, Operation Pangea II, involving 24 countries, was coordinated by INTERPOL and the World Health Organization's International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) to highlight the dangers of buying medicines online.
The week long global initiative resulted in a series of arrests and the seizure of thousands of potentially harmful medical products.
"Our primary goal in Operation Pangea II is to protect the public by removing counterfeit and illicit medicines from the market, by shutting down illegal sales on the web, and by prosecuting those potentially putting lives of innocent consumers at risk," said INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.
Medicine regulators, police and customs officials around the world worked closely together during the crackdown from 16-20 November, focusing on the three principal components used by illegal websites to conduct trade - the Internet Service Provider (ISP), payment systems and the delivery services.
During the operation, Internet monitoring revealed 751 websites engaged in illegal activity, including offering controlled or prescription only drugs, 72 of which have now been taken down. In addition, more than 16,000 packages were inspected by regulators and customs, 995 packages were seized and nearly 167,000 illicit and counterfeit pills - including antibiotics, steroids and slimming pills, confiscated.
Twenty-two individuals are currently under investigation for a range of crimes including illegally selling and supplying unlicensed or prescription-only medicines.
"As the very positive results of this global effort are made public, INTERPOL and its member countries will prove again that the Internet is not an anonymous safe haven for those who use it for criminal purposes. We hope that by raising public awareness about the dangers of illegal internet pharmacies, consumers will exercise greater care when purchasing medicines on the Internet," added Secretary General Noble.
"Our thanks go to the police, customs and regulatory officials in the 24 participating countries as well as to our partner international organizations such as the World Health Organization's IMPACT, the World Customs Organization and Universal Postal Union whose tireless efforts and dedication have made Operation Pangea II such a success," Noble concluded.
The operation received significant support from the Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC) the World Customs Organization, the UK's Medicines and Health Care products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Health Canada.
Countries involved in Operation Pangea II were - Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, UK and the USA.
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