Rogue pharmacies switch tactics as enforcement bites

The numbers from this year’s Pangea enforcement operation against rogue online pharmacies are in, and show a steep reduction in the value of goods seized compared to last year.

The annual clampdown led by Interpol against illicit online pharmaceuticals – the eleventh in the series –  spanned 116 countries and netted $14m-worth of potentially dangerous drugs, down from a record $51m last year – even though more packs were seized.

Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock said this is a sign that the Pangea operations are starting to have an impact and “the police, customs, and health regulatory agencies working together have forced the criminals operating illicit online pharmacies to change their modus operandi.”

He said the perpetrators have started to switch to sending their illicit goods via smaller shipping packages “to try and avoid the more stringent checks which have become routine in many countries as a result of the Pangea operations.”

The number of rogue websites taken offline was 3,671, slightly down on the 2017 haul, and included domain names such as  include domains such as,, and The number of arrests worldwide more than doubled to 859, an almost one million packages were inspected during the week of action (October 9-16), with 500 tonnes of illicit pharmaceuticals seized worldwide.

The seized medicines included anti-inflammatory medication, painkillers, erectile dysfunction pills, hypnotic and sedative agents, anabolic steroids, slimming pills and medicines for treating HIV, Parkinson’s and diabetes. Authorities in Poland discovered counterfeit contraceptive pills hidden inside DVD packages, while in Ireland, illicit sleeping pills were found concealed inside a hollowed-out book.

Meanwhile, more than 110,000 medical devices including syringes, contact lenses, hearing aids and surgical instruments which could put users at risk of serious infections and allergic reactions were also seized. Among these, 737 expired cardiac surgery instruments were found that had been smuggled into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

“This year’s results again show the successes achieved globally in stopping potentially lethal products from reaching unsuspecting customers,” said Stock.

This year’s operation also took place at three of the nine international mail facilities in the US, as well as at other facilities around the world.

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