Operation Targets Online Sale of Illicit Drugs

An Interpol-led global operation involving 100 participating countries, targeted the illegal sale of medicine online and has resulted in 58 arrests and the seizure of 9.8 million fake or counterfeit medicines worth $41 million.

The week-long Operation Pangea VI took place June 18-27. It identified and shut down 9,000 websites and suspended the payment facilities of illegitimate pharmacies. In addition to online operations, multiple raids were done at addresses linked to the illegal websites. Customs inspected some 522,000 packages and seized 58,000.

Police, customs and national regulatory authorities in multiple countries were engaged in disrupting the global Internet-based sale of these medicines.

Interpol, Europol, the World Customs Organization, numerous pharmaceutical agencies, and private sector companies including Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and Legitscript all participated in the operation. They focused on two main areas that are integral to the illegal trade, Internet service providers and electronic payment and delivery systems.

Fake medicines seized included antibiotics, cancer medication, anti-depression pills, food supplements and erectile dysfunction cures. The dangers of online pharmacies are that the products are unregulated and the medication sold can have unknown risks.

So far 175 investigations have been launched as part of the operation, exploring offenses like illegal manufacturing and selling and supplying counterfeit or unlicensed medicines.