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13 November 2008 - Media release

Illegal online medicine suppliers targeted in first international Internet day of action

The first international Internet day of action co-ordinated by the Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime, INTERPOL and the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT), targeting the illegal online sale of medicines to the public has resulted in a series of arrests and the seizure of potentially harmful medicines in operations carried out around the world.

Codenamed Pangea, the operation focused on those individuals behind Internet sites which illegally sell and supply unlicensed or prescription-only medicines claiming to treat a range of ailments.

While many countries have previously carried out individual law enforcement activities targeting ‘Internet pharmacies’, Wednesday’s Operation Pangea was the first time that action was taken on an international scale, with participating countries including Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and the USA.

“Buying medicines from illegal and unregulated websites poses significant risks, not least that the buyer is putting their health in danger by taking drugs which have no guarantee of safety, quality or effectiveness,” said Jean-Michel Louboutin, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services.

“With counterfeit drugs also being sold by these ‘internet pharmacies’, these pills containing little or no active ingredient not only have potential long term detrimental consequences on the effectiveness of real medicines, the profits derived from these also are often directed towards organized crime.”

“Operation Pangea is a clear demonstration that the international community is harnessing its efforts to ensure there is no anonymity or safety for those individuals engaged in supplying medicines illegally via the Internet,” added Mr Louboutin.

Locations in each country were identified, with investigators visiting residential and commercial addresses relating to Internet sites believed to be selling unlicensed or prescription-only medicines claiming to treat conditions such as diabetes, obesity and hair loss.

Investigations in a number of countries are still ongoing, with the final results from Operation Pangea to be released upon their conclusion. For more information on individual activities and operations, please contact the national enforcement agencies in the countries concerned.