Operation Pangea III expanded on last year’s effort, in which 24 countries cooperated to seize 167,000 pills, to tackle online supply of counterfeit products and raise awareness of the issue.
During last week’s operation 45 countries sent intelligence to a dedicated Interpol operations centre in Lyon, France. Cooperation and internet monitoring led to identification of 694 websites involved in illegal activity, 290 of which have been shut down.
Furthermore, 268,000 packages were inspected by regulators and customs, of which almost 11,000 were seized. Just over 1m illicit and counterfeit pills, including antibiotics, steroids, anti-cancer, anti-depression, anti-epileptic and slimming pills, were confiscated.
By the end of last week’s action 76 individuals were under investigation or arrest for a range of offences, including illegally selling and supplying unlicensed or prescription-only medicines.
The operation involved cooperation between Interpol, the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC) and the Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers (HMA WGEO).
Furthermore, the pharmaceutical industry, electronic payments sector, for instance Visa and MasterCard, and national regulators were involved in the operation.
In the UK the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) worked with local police to raid locations linked to 12 websites. Also, the Metropolitan Police Central e-Crime Unit is working with internet service providers (ISPs) to close a further 183 websites.
Meanwhile, in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) targeted 294 websites that appeared to be engaged in the illegal sale of unapproved or misbranded drugs. Warning letters have been sent to the operators of the websites and the FDA is working with ISPs.