World: Interpol Bust of Illegal Online Pharmacies

Published: 05 October 2012


Interpol arrested 80 people and confiscated $10.5 million worth of illegal pharmaceuticals during an annual week-long global operation that ended earlier this month, the international police organization announced Thursday. 

The operation, code-named "Pangea," targeted the sale of fake and illicit medication though the internet, which has risen in recent years despite the risks associated with it. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 50 percent of medication sold on by online suppliers is counterfeit.

The sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals is a growing focus for police organizations, because in addition to undermining legitimate commerce, such medications pose a major health threat. They often contain too much or too little of an active ingredient, or contain ingredients that aren't even listed but could interact fatally other medications.

In a bid for prevention, Interpol has rolled out an education campaign featuring a grim series of videos that detail the consequences of four people's use of fake medication they bought online. Susan is awaiting a liver transplant after taking bootleg sleep medication; Cheryl is permanently diabetic due to fake weight loss pills; Chad died of a heart attack brought on by extra-strength blood pressure pills; and John is still in a coma after he took erectile disfunction pills which turned out to be diabetes medication.

Interpol said its action led to the closure of some 18,000 web sites that sell illegal medication.