Huge strike against trade in illegal pharmaceuticals

© AS Photo Project/
In a global operation, Interpol and authorities of over 90 countries seized several million counterfeit medical products – including actions in multiple European countries. In addition, the officials took a record number of illegal online offers off the Internet.

This year’s iteration of the global Operation Pangea XI, coordinated by Interpol, has seen police, customs, and medical regulators from 92 countries seizing illegal medicines worth an estimated 23 million US dollars (about 19.3 million euros) at the end of May and arresting some 280 suspects. They also shut down more than 113,000 web links presumably distributing counterfeit medicines – the highest number since the first Operation Pangea in 2008. The authorities were supported by Europol, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime/World Customs Organization’s Container Control Programme.

In total, the authorities seized more than nine million illegal pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Confiscated goods include illegal sedatives, painkillers, and anti-cancer medication; as well as numerous counterfeit or unauthorized Covid-19 tests, which accounted for more than half of the seized medical devices. The estimated value of this year’s seized items is about 64 percent higher than last year (2020: about 14 million US dollars seizure value). In total, the authorities inspected around 710,000 shipments and, in some cases, identified fake medication that counterfeiters had hidden among legitimate products, such as clothing, jewelry, toys, and food. In Qatar, officials for instance discovered thousands of painkillers hidden in tin cans.

In the UK alone, authorities seized around three million illicit and counterfeit pharmaceuticals and medical devices, with an estimated value of over 13 million US dollars (around 10.9 million euros). Local authorities also shut down around 3,100 advertising links trading unlicensed medication and took down over 40 suspicious websites. In Italy, officials also confiscated more than 500,000 counterfeit surgical masks and 35 machines for producing and packaging medicines.

Interpol also attributes the intensified problem of counterfeit medicines to the global coronavirus pandemic: “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. The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced it would build on the results of Operation Pangea to identify hotspots for the export of counterfeits.

Sources: Interpol, Securing Industry

– Advertisement –