Global Interpol operation targeting online falsified medicines

News Category: Regulatory news

Date: 19/03/2020

Over 49,000 illegal medicines worth €175,000 detained in Ireland as part of Operation Pangea XIII 2020

The HPRA, working together with Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána, have detained over 49,000 tablets and capsules worth over €175,000 in Ireland as part of Operation Pangea XIII. The Operation is an Interpol-coordinated international action targeting the online sale of falsified and illegal medicines and medical devices. Operation Pangea XIII involved 90 countries working together to target the criminal networks behind the sale of falsified and illegal medicines and medical devices, via illicit online suppliers and online e-commerce platforms.  In Ireland, this has also resulted in 90 websites, social media pages and e-commerce advertisements being investigated and/or being taken offline. 

Globally, Operation Pangea XIII resulted in around 4.4 million dosage units of illegal medicines and medical devices, with an estimated value of US$14 million, being detained across all 90 countries involved. A total of 2,569 websites and web pages on social media, e-commerce sites and other advertisement platforms were shut down or were in the process of being shut down.

Operation Pangea XIII saw large volumes of sedatives and analgesics detained in addition to illegal products associated with lifestyle or cosmetic trends, including anabolic steroids and erectile dysfunction products. Illegal teeth whitening strips, which, as per the labelling, contain levels of peroxide bleach well in excess of permitted European norms, were also detained.

The breakdown of medicines detained in Ireland during Pangea XIII includes: 

  • Sedatives: 20,660

  • Anabolic Steroids: 8,614

  • Analgesics 8,059

  • Erectile Dysfunction: 3,767

Laboratory analysis of products previously detained by the HPRA has shown that illicit medicines often contain too little or too much of the active ingredient. They have also been found to contain harmful or undeclared substances. Under the law, the supply of prescription medicines by mail order (including the internet) is prohibited. The HPRA’s focus on detaining illegal prescription medicines is part of its ongoing efforts to protect public health and prevent illegal and potentially falsified medicines reaching Irish consumers.

The HPRA continues to work closely with national and international partners to combat illegal supply, through intelligence sharing and joint detention and prevention efforts. There is significant inter-agency co-operation, nationally, working with our colleagues from Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána, and internationally, including the Interpol co-ordinated Operation Pangea, in year-round efforts to detect and prevent the unauthorised flow of medicines, medical devices and other health products.

View the HPRA advice leaflet highlighting the dangers associated with buying prescription medicines online. 

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