In response to the increasing amount of illegal medicines being sold online, Interpol and the World Health Organisation have mobilised Operation Pangea II, a multinational effort to highlight the dangers of unscrupulous websites.

The week-long initiative, which ended today, involved 24 countries and resulted in a series of arrests and the seizure of thousands of potentially harmful medical products.

During the operation, which focused on three aspects of the illegal websites – the internet service provider (ISP), payment systems and the delivery services, investigators revealed 751 websites engaged in illegally selling drugs, 72 of which have now been taken down.

In addition, more than 16,000 packages were inspected by regulators and customs, 995 packages were seized and nearly 167,000 illicit and counterfeit pills including antibiotics, steroids and slimming pills were confiscated.

Interpol secretary general Ronald K Noble said that the primary goal of Operation Pangea II was to protect the public.

“We will do this by removing counterfeit and illicit medicines from the market, by shutting down illegal sales on the web, and by prosecuting those potentially putting lives of innocent consumers at risk,” he said.

Countries involved in Operation Pangea II included Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the UK and the US.