Global crackdown on illegal internet trade yields £51.6m worth of medicines and devices

A record £15.8m worth of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines and 15,000 devises have been seized in the UK as part of Operation Pangea. In the image, counterfeit drugs

An international crackdown on the illegal internet trade in medicines has yielded £51.6m worth of items from 115 different countries.

A record £15.8m worth of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines and 15,000 devices were seized in the UK as part of the global initiative, co-ordinated through INTERPOL and known as Operation Pangea.

The haul is the biggest of its kind in the UK and almost twice as much as was seized in 2014, according to the UK drug regulator the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Counterfeit items taken in raids by MHRA enforcement officers and the police include fake condoms and medicines to treat epilepsy, asthma, depression and diabetes. Most of the fake products originated from India, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The UK side of the operation also resulted in 1,380 websites being closed down, 339 of which were domestic sites.

In the United States, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which was also involved in Operation Pangea, took action against 1,050 websites that illegally sold unapproved prescription medicines or devices.

FDA inspectors intercepted 814 parcels of potential counterfeit products in packages posted to the United States from abroad.

Some of the unapproved prescription drugs targeted during the international operation included generic versions of branded drugs such as Nolvadex (tamoxifen), Meridia (sibutramine), Valium (diazepam) and Truvada (tenofovir plus emtricitabine), the FDA says.

Examples of the medical devices sold illegally online include dermal fillers and products for colonic irrigation.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 27 June/4 July 2015, Vol 294, No 7868/9;294(7868):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20068802

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