Falsified medicines worth $23m seized in Interpol-led crackdown

This year's Operation Pangea against falsified medicines was always likely to be a big one with criminals cashing in on the pandemic, and the figures speak for themselves.

All told, $23m-worth of illicit products were seized – a steep increase on the 2020 haul worth $14m – with counterfeit drugs and test kits for COVID-19 once again prominent among the intercepted goods.

Pangea XIV, which involved authorities from 92 countries and resulted in 277 arrests, also resulted in the takedown of 113,020 web links peddling fake medicines.

The UK was a focal point for the operation this year, with more than three million medicines and medical devices valued at over £9m (almost $13m) seized and seven people arrested in Northern Ireland.

Checks of some 710,000 packages led to the discovery of fake and illicit drugs hidden amongst legitimate products including clothes, jewellery, toys, food and baby products.

Among the illegal medicines confiscated by enforcement officers were antidepressants, erectile dysfunction tablets, painkillers, anabolic steroids and slimming pills. More than half of all medical devices seized during the operation were fake and unauthorised COVID-19 tests.

UK authorities also removed more than 3,100 advertising links for the illegal sale and supply of unlicensed medicines, and shut down 43 websites.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela a man was arrested after he developed an e-commerce platform on WhatsApp to sell illicit medicines, while in Italy authorities recovered more than 500,000 fake surgical masks as well as 35 industrial machines used for production and packaging.

In Qatar, officials discovered 2,805 nerve pain tablets hidden inside tins of baked beans.

"As the pandemic forced more people to move their lives online, criminals were quick to target these new 'customers'," said Jürgen Stock, secretary general of Interpol, which coordinated the operation.

"Whilst some individuals were knowingly buying illicit medicines, many thousands of victims were unwittingly putting their health and potentially their lives at risk," he added.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it would follow the week of action with work to identify "hotspot exporting countries, favoured high-risk medicines being traded on the black market, and the ever-evolving business models of criminals" involved in the trade.

Related articles:

     Want our news sent directly to your inbox?

Yes please 2


Home  |  About us  |  Contact us  |  Advertise  |  Links  |  Partners  |  Privacy Policy  |   |  RSS feed   |  back to top