Pangea VI swoop nets $41m-worth of fake medicines

Pangea VI imageThe latest Interpol-backed operation against online sales of illicit medicines has resulted in the seizure of almost 10 million drugs worth an estimated $41m.

Operation Pangea VI also resulted in 58 arrests, somewhat fewer than the 79 arrests made during last year's operation which seized 3.75m drugs with a value of around $10.5m.

The week-long clampdown focused on Internet Service Providers (ISPs), electronic payment systems and delivery services and resulted in more than 9,000 websites linked to the trade in illicit medicines being taken down.

That is around half the number of websites shut during Pangea V in 2012, suggesting that the enforcement activity is starting to have durable impact on the scale of illicit trade in medicines carried out online.

As well as raids at addresses linked to the illicit pharmaceutical websites, some 522,000 packages were inspected by customs and regulatory authorities, of which 58,000 were seized.

The enforcement agencies were also able to suspend the payment facilities of illegitimate pharmacies and disrupt "a substantial number" of spam messages peddling fake medicines, according to Interpol, which said that 175 investigations have now been launched into a range of offenses including the illegal manufacturing, selling and supplying counterfeit or unlicensed medicines.

Among the fake medicines seized during Pangea VI were antibiotics, cancer medications, antidepressants, medicines to treat narcolepsy, asthma, arthritis, diabetes and epilepsy, and the usual haul of erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs.

Pangea VI imageSpecific counterfeits uncovered during the operation included copies of GlaxoSmithKline's diabetes drug Avandaryl (glimepiride and rosiglitazone), generic versions of Pfizer's Celebrex (celecoxib) for arthritis, Teva/Cephalon's narcolepsy drug Provigil (modafinil) and clozapine, a tightly-controlled and potentially hazardous medicine used to treat severe cases of schizophrenia.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) highlighted some of the rogue pharmacy websites taken down during the action, which included examples that would be hard to spot by consumers such as and

Pangea VI was coordinated by Interpol and carried out with the involvement of the World Customs Organization, the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime, the Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute and Europol.

"Transnational criminal networks are taking advantage of the Internet to deceive consumers into buying fake and often dangerous medicines with a wanton disregard for the health risks this poses to the unsuspecting buyers," said Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble.

"These are significant steps forward in safeguarding the health and safety of the public, and in dealing a major blow to the criminal groups behind the counterfeiting of medical products," he added.

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