The operation, named Pangea II, follows on from last year’s one-day sting which also featured countries around the world coordinated by Interpol and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT).
In the latest operation, which was conducted last week, resources were focused on websites that peddle counterfeit drugs and in particular their internet service providers (ISP), payment systems and delivery services.
By doing this the operation identified 751 websites engaged in illegal activity and 72 of these have already been taken down. Furthermore, officials inspected more than 16,000 packages, seizing 995 of them which contained drugs including antibiotics, steroids and slimming pills.
Enforcement agencies are now investigating 22 people and the Medicines and the UK’s Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) made three arrests during raids on suspected locations.
These raids found medicines for erectile dysfunction, hair loss, contraception, weight loss, pain relief, asthma, local anaesthesia and steroids which are worth £300,000, according to the MHRA.
Pangea II brought together agencies from 24 countries to tackle anti-counterfeiting, reflecting the global nature of the problem and the pharma industry in general.
Mick Deats, MHRA Head of Enforcement, explained that “international operation is the only way to deal with an international problem”, adding that Pangea II “is a great example of the collaboration needed to tackle this type of crime”.
Beyond this there was also collaboration between agencies in each country and region. At AAPS 2009 Guy Villax, CEO of Hovione, noted that the lack of a relationship between European customs officials and medicine agencies hinders enforcement.
Pangea II appears to be an effort to facilitate closer cooperation, at least for the duration of the operation, and is a useful exercise in “raising public awareness about the dangers of illegal internet pharmacies”, according to Ronald Noble, secretary general at Interpol.