Over 200,000 illegal medicines worth 850,000 euro detained in Ireland during Operation Pangea 2017

News Category: Regulatory news

Date: 25/09/2017

Over 200,000 illegal medicines worth €850,000 detained in Ireland

Globally 25 million units seized worth US$ 56 million


The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), in partnership with Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána, today joined Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, to announce it has detained over 200,000 units of illegal prescription medicines (2016: 60,000) valued at over €850,000 as part of the Interpol-coordinated Operation Pangea X. The week long focus in Ireland to protect public health and highlight the dangers posed by illegal medicines and other illicit health products, also resulted in two arrests, the investigation of 38 websites and eight social media pages being taken offline. Simultaneously, today it was announced by Interpol that the global Operation Pangea X resulted in over 25 million illegal medicines and medical devices worth over US$ 56 million being detained across 123 countries. 

The breakdown of the 200,000 detained medicines in Ireland includes:


  • Sedatives:                                              76,000 units
  • Anabolic Steroids:                                  72,000 units
  • Erectile Dysfunction:                               23,000 units
  • Antibiotics:                                            2,600 units
  • Analgesics:                                            2,500 units
  • Slimming:                                              2,300 units
  • Cognitive:                                              1,600 units
  • Other products (small volumes)             23,000 units


The medicines detained included significant volumes of anabolic steroids, sedatives and erectile dysfunction medicines in addition to painkillers (analgesics), stimulants, injectable tanning products (Melanotan II), insulin injectable pens, weight loss products and medicines indicated for oncology. In total, more than 1,000 individual packages containing tablets, capsules and ampoules were intercepted. The main countries of origin for these packages were India, China, Latvia, UK, Moldova, Cameroon, Pakistan and the US.


A total of 20 search warrants were executed jointly by the HPRA, An Garda Síochána and Revenue’s Customs Service with 38 websites investigated and forced to either close or cease selling product into Ireland. Eight social media pages and 18 advertisements on online auction sites were also taken down during the operation. 

Some 197 enforcement agencies across 123 countries were involved in Operation Pangea X which targets the supply of falsified/counterfeit and other illegal medicines and medical devices, primarily via illicit online sales. The HPRA, Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána jointly led the operation in Ireland.


Minister Harris said: “In Ireland, the HPRA alongside Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána, are continuing to detain significant amounts of falsified prescription medicines coming through illegal channels. It is important for everyone to be aware that these types of products can pose a serious health risk. Consumers have no way of knowing what is actually in the medicine or how and where they were made. I hope that when people see the images from today of the illegal products that have been detained that they will think seriously about the risks involved in buying prescription medicines online. If anyone does have concerns about their health, then they should seek proper advice from their healthcare professional and they should only purchase prescription medicines from a recognised pharmacy. I commend everyone who was involved in the tenth Operation Pangea for their excellent work.”


Commenting Dr Lorraine Nolan, Chief Executive, HPRA, said this year’s Operation Pangea had been highly successful with a substantial increase in the volume of product detained.


“There are a number of factors at play here resulting in a threefold annual increase namely enhancing our intelligence led enforcement activities and building successfully on our deep year-round collaboration with our partner agencies. Fundamentally, the illicit supply and sale of illegal medicines to the general public carries serious health risks for people. The products we have detained are prescription only medicines for a reason – people should only be taking them under the care of their doctor and in the knowledge they have been supplied by a regulated and trusted source such as their local pharmacy. There is no guarantee as to what is contained in these products we have detained or under what conditions they have been manufactured. We continue to urge members of the public not to use unverified and unregulated sources such as the internet to buy prescription only medicines or other illegal health products.”


The participation of social media and technology companies, the electronic payments sector and the pharmaceutical industry in support of Operation Pangea highlights the significant collaboration now taking place between the health product regulators, law enforcement agencies and the private sector in combating the illegal supply of medicines and medical devices.

Operation Pangea aims to highlight to the public the risks involved in the illegal online supply of prescription medicines, in particular and non-compliant medical devices, many of which are from dubious sources and others are falsified/counterfeit.

Operation Pangea has grown extensively since it first took place in 2008 involving, at that time, just eight countries, including Ireland. It is the largest internet based action of its kind and this year’s operation is the largest since its inception. Operation Pangea X was coordinated by Interpol, together with the World Customs Organisation (WCO), the Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC), the European Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers (WGEO), the Pharmaceutical Security Institute and Europol.




Rachel Galligan /Siobhan Molloy             Tel: (01) 679 8600

Weber Shandwick PR                            087 7919901  /086 817 5066




The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) protects and enhances public health and animal health by regulating medicines, medical devices and other health products. The products under its remit include human and veterinary medicines, medical devices, blood and blood components, tissues and cells, organs for transplantation and cosmetics.


Notes to Editor:

  1. Counterfeit medicinal products are now known as ‘falsified medicinal products’ in accordance with amendments to the EU legislation on medicines for human use ((Directive 2001/83/EC) that came into force in 2013.
  2. The Mail Order of prescription medicines, including internet supply, is prohibited in Ireland. No internet pharmacy authorised in another country is permitted to supply prescription medicines to consumers in Ireland. Consequently, any legitimate online pharmacy that may be authorised to act as such in another country may not supply a person in Ireland. Further, any offer by an online supply outlet of a prescription medicine without the need for a prescription is not a legitimate pharmacy in any EU Member State, or if it so supplies, it will be acting outside of Irish legislation.
  3. Since June 2015, anyone who wishes to sell non-prescription medicines over the internet in Ireland must register with the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland and be entered on to the approved Internet Supply List.


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