At INTERPOL, we promote concrete law enforcement actions in the field with the ultimate aim of protecting the public from sub-standard and dangerous goods. We offer an 'interventions package' to support all stages of an investigation from gathering intelligence, planning and implementing an operation, through to legal issues for cases that are brought to court.
On-the-ground operations are run on a national and regional level in order to disrupt transnational criminal networks involved in pharmaceutical crime. Directed at both physical outlets and Internet suppliers, these are multi-agency efforts supported by key scientific partners.
Our flagship operations – Storm (Southeast Asia), Mamba (Eastern Africa) and Pangea (targeting the Internet) – continue to go from strength to strength. Successive raids on licit and illicit markets have shown improved results in terms of seizures, arrests, convictions and the closure of illicit websites.
These operations both highlight the success of multidisciplinary enforcement action and confirm the crucial need for continued intervention in this area.
Combating the sale of illegal medicines online
Operation Pangea is an international week of action tackling the online sale of counterfeit and illicit medicines and highlighting the dangers of buying medicines online. Coordinated by INTERPOL, the annual operation brings together customs, health regulators, national police and the private sector from countries around the world.
Activities target the three principal components used by illegal websites to conduct their trade – the Internet Service Provider (ISP), payment systems and the delivery service.
The operation has gained significant momentum since its launch in 2008. The first phase of the operation brought together 10 countries; a number which has now risen to more than 100.
Dates: 9-16 June 2015
Participating countries: 115
Participating agencies: 236
- A record 20.7 million fake and illicit medicines seized, including blood pressure medication, erectile dysfunction pills, cancer medication and nutritional supplements;
- Estimated value: USD 81 million;
- 156 arrests;
- 429 investigations launched;
- 550 adverts for illicit pharmaceuticals removed from the Internet;
- More than 2,410 websites taken offline;
- Two websites linked to the sale of the potentially lethal and illicit diet drug DNP shut down.
- Aline Plançon, INTERPOL Pharmaceutical Crime unit
- Aline Plançon, Unité de criminalité pharmaceutique d'INTERPOL
- Junko Yamamoto, World Customs Organization
- Kerry Mannion, US Food and Drug Administration
- Athiqur Meah, UK Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency
- Cecilia Fant, INTERPOL Criminal Intelligence Officer
Dates: 13-20 May 2014
Participating countries: 113
Participating agencies: 198
- 9.6 million fake and illicit medicines seized, including slimming pills, cancer medication, erectile dysfunction pills, cough and cold medication, anti-malarial, cholesterol medication and nutritional products;
- Seizures worth more than USD 32 million;
- 434 arrests;
- 1,249 investigations launched;
- 22,800 adverts for illicit pharmaceuticals removed from social media platforms;
- More than 11,800 websites shut down.
Dates: 18-28 June 2013
Participating countries: 99 in total
- 10.1 million illicit and counterfeit pills confiscated;
- Estimated value: USD 36 million;
- More than 13,700 websites shut down;
- Some 534,00 packages inspected by regulators and customs authorities, of which around 41,000 were confiscated;
- Some 213 individuals are currently under investigation or under arrest for a range of offences, including: illegal internet activity; illegal sale of medicines and supplying unlicensed medicines.
Dates: 25 September – 2 October 2012
Participating countries: 100 in total
- 3.75 million illicit and counterfeit pills confiscated;
- Estimated value: USD 10.5 million;
- More than 18,000 websites shut down;
- Some 133,000 packages inspected by regulators and customs authorities, of which around 6,700 were confiscated;
- Some 80 individuals are currently under investigation or under arrest for a range of offences, including operating a clandestine laboratory producing counterfeit medicines; membership of a criminal group selling illicit medicine online; and operating websites selling illicit medicines.
Dates: 20 – 27 September 2011
Participating countries: 81 in total
- 2.4 million illicit and counterfeit pills confiscated;
- Estimated value: USD 6.3 million;
- Almost 13,500 websites shut down;
- Some 45,500 packages inspected by regulators and customs authorities, of which almost 8,000 were seized;
- Some 55 individuals are currently under investigation or under arrest for a range of offences, including illegally manufacturing, selling and supplying unlicensed or prescription-only medicines.
Dates: 5 – 12 October 2010
Participating countries: (44 in total) Angola, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, China (+ Hong Kong, China), Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, Uruguay and the United States of America.
- 87 individuals arrested/under investigation;
- 102 search warrants executed;
- More than 2 million pills seized;
- 297 websites taken down;
- Estimated value: USD 6.77 million;
- More than 1,000 police messages exchanged;
- 350 checks carried out in INTERPOL's databases.
Dates: 16-20 November 2009
Participating countries: (25 in total) Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lichtenstein, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom and United States of America.
- Identification of more than 1,200 websites engaged in illegal activity including the sale of suspected counterfeit medicines as well as controlled or prescription-only drugs;
- 237 other websites closely investigated and 153 of them shut down;
- 17 adverts promoting medicines on auction websites removed;
- A total of 59 suspects identified. At least 12 of them were arrested and the others investigated for a range of offences related to the illegal sale of pharmaceutical products.
Date: 12 November 2008
Participating countries: (10 in total) Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States of America.
- Commercial websites taken down;
- Postal depots monitored and parcels examined; packages containing suspected counterfeit medicines intercepted;
- Thousands of suspected counterfeit erectile dysfunction drugs and other medicines seized or identified and withdrawn from circulation;
- Consumer awareness raised via global press coverage.
Pangea I was organized by the Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC) and supported by INTERPOL.
Operation Pangea V
The videos below highlight the risks of buying medicines online.
Storm Enforcement Network- Operation Storm 2014 - Indonesia
Susan's story - fake sleeping medication
Cheryl's story - fake weight loss pills
Chad's story - fake blood pressure pills
John's story - fake erectile dysfunction drugs