Latest Pangea op nets 3m fake medicines worth $11m

The latest Interpol-backed operation to fight the trade in counterfeit and otherwise illegal medicines has led to the 7,800 seizures that collectively included more than three million individual units worth en estimated $11m.

That's a reduction on the $23m seized in 2021 and the $14m in 2020, as the pandemic was at its height and criminals were cashing in on the anxieties of people hunting for personal protective equipment, COVID-19 tests and drugs/vaccines.

The Pangea XV week of action – between June 23 and 30 – focused on rogue online pharmacies, investigated and shut down more than 4,000 web links, mainly from social media platforms and messaging apps.

Almost 3,000 suspect packages were inspected at 280 postal hubs located at airports, borders and mail distribution or cargo mail centres, according to an Interpol update. In Malaysia alone, law enforcement identified more than 2,000 websites selling or advertising counterfeit or illegally-obtained pharmaceuticals.

Nearly half (48 per cent) of the packages inspected by law enforcement during the operation were found to contain either illicit or falsified medicines, said the enforcement agency, with illicit erectile dysfunction drugs accounting for around 40 per cent of the total.

Law enforcement in Australia, Argentina, Malaysia and the US also seized more than 317,000 unauthorised COVID-19 test kits, and the US seizures alone are estimated to be worth nearly $3m, according to the report.

As a result of the operation, more than 600 new investigations have been opened, the activities of 36 organised crime groups have been disrupted, and 200 search warrants have been issued, with data still being collected from some of the 94 countries worldwide that participated.

"Selling counterfeit or illicit medicines online may seem like a low-level offence, but the consequences for victims are potentially life-threatening," said Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

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