EU Authorities Crack Down on Illegal Meds, Arrest Hundreds
In a global operation spanning 19 EU member states and eight other countries, authorities cracked down on the illegal and counterfeit medication market, arrested hundreds of suspects and seized nearly US$100 million in fake drugs, Europol stated Thursday.
“During the operation, law enforcement officers dismantled 25 criminal groups, arrested nearly 700 suspects and seized large amounts of anti-cancer drugs, erectile dysfunction medicines, pseudoephedrine, various doping substances (hormone and metabolic regulators), drugs, painkillers, antioestrogens, antivirals, hypnotics, antihistamines and anxiolytics,” Europol said.
It stressed that the trafficking of fake or illegal medications has been a lucrative enterprise for criminal organizations across the globe.
“Organized crime groups are increasingly diverting their activities into this criminal field, which provides high profits with lower risks of detection,” the agency explained.
Europol also warned that “the misuse of medicines outside their intended use has become commonplace,” and that consumers “turn to these medicines for different reasons including psychotropic, recreational or performance-enhancing purposes and consume them without medical prescriptions.”
However, the problem has only been encouraged by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has offered criminal groups new opportunities to extort medical systems, and exploit the fears of the larger population.
“We have seen with the current COVID-19 crisis that criminals have no problems in abusing people’s fears,” Europol’s Executive Director, Catherine De Boll, said.
She also warned that “counterfeit and misused medicines are a growing threat not only because it generates large illegal profits, but because it also represents a serious risk to public health,” as fake antiviral products, unauthorized COVID-19 tests and medical devices like face masks and sanitizers could expose the public to high health risks, even death.