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October 4, 2012

Millions of counterfeit and unlicensed drugs seized during worldwide crackdown

More than £6.5 million worth of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines has been seized around the world as part of an international crackdown coordinated by Interpol.

By Heidi Vella


More than £6.5m worth of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines have been seized around the world as part of an international crackdown coordinated by Interpol.

In the UK alone, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), in conjunction with the UK Border Force, discovered more than 2.3 million doses of unlicensed medication worth £3.8m, plus 68,000 doses of counterfeit pills.

During the week-long international crackdown, called ‘Operation Pangea V’, 79 people were arrested worldwide.

The medicines recovered are used to treat asthma, narcolepsy, breast cancer, cholesterol reduction, skin conditions, malaria, arthritis, erectile dysfunction, depression and eye disorders.

The operation, which ran from 15 September to 2 October, also closed around 18,000 illegal online pharmaceutical websites, where the domain name or payment function was removed.

MHRA Enforcement acting head Nimo Ahmed said; "Illegal suppliers do not adhere to quality control or standards that are required in the licensed trade. If people could see the filthy conditions some of these medicines are being made, stored and transported in, they certainly wouldn’t touch them."

One hundred countries participated in this year’s event, which resulted in it being the largest operation of its kind.

Operation Pangea was initiated by the MHRA to combat online unlicensed and counterfeit drug sales, and has been in action since 2006.

In the UK, houses were raided and two people arrested by MHRA enforcement officers, with assistance from the police.

The MHRA and the police are also working together to tackle spam email advertising counterfeit and unlicensed pills.

Police Central e-Crime Unit head, Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, said; "This type of crime causes significant harm to the UK economy, generating millions of pounds of criminal profit. The MHRA’s International Internet Week of Action continues to form part of our wider remit to protect people from internet-facilitated crime."

Image: £3.8m worth of counterfit and unlicensed medication was seized in the UK alone. Photo: Courtesy of Josef Zemánek.

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