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More than 10,000 websites shut down in global operation

28 May 2014

The recent global Operation PANGEA VII resulted in the shutdown of more than 10,000 websites. The operation focused on combating online sale of counterfeit medicines and making consumers aware that they need to take care of themselves when buying medicines online.

The illegal sale of medicines often crosses geographic borders and may involve organised crime networks. The operation targeted three main components of illegal online sale of medicines: the website, the payment option and the dispatched parcel.

Seizure of over 9.4 million units containing potentially life-threatening medicines

Globally, the operation led to 237 arrests, some 540,000 parcels were inspected and over 9.4 million units containing potentially life-threatening medicines were seized – worth an estimated value of more than USD 35 million.

More than 10,000 websites were shut down or had their payment facility removed.

Press release from INTERPOL

Danish participation and focus on medicines from third countries

The Danish Health and Medicines Authority, the Danish customs and tax authorities (SKAT), the Danish Police and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration participated in the operation and were assisted by the Danish Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry and the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology.

Focus was on parcels containing medicines from third countries, and a number of products were analysed because they were suspected of containing undeclared active substances. Four of the eleven products that were analysed contained active substances that were not indicated on the package.

In addition, ten websites selling medicines illegally were reported to INTERPOL.

Consumers should take care of themselves when buying medicines online

Consumers are allowed to buy medicines for personal use in an EU or EEA country. Medicines sold from an EU or EEA country may originate from a third country and be illegal. So it can be difficult to find out if an online shop has the necessary permits to sell the medicine and whether the medicine is approved by the Danish Health and Medicines Authority or similar foreign authority. The easiest way to shop safely is to buy medicines at one of the Danish pharmacies or in one of the shops authorised by the Danish Health and Medicines Authority to sell medicines online.

Unlicensed medicines and counterfeit medicines may cause serious side effects or even death. It is therefore important to get advice before you buy medicines online. Ask for advice at pharmacies, from your doctor or the Danish Health and Medicines Authority.

Risk of credit card fraud and identity theft

INTERPOL advises consumers to watch out for credit card fraud, identity theft, computer viruses and other malware if they buy medicine from illegal websites.

About the operation

Operation PANGEA VII was conducted from 13 May to 20 May 2014. It is the largest-ever global operation involving regulatory authorities, police, customs and tax authorities assisted by electronic payment system providers (VISA and MasterCard) and internet service providers. Around 200 authorities across 111 countries took part in the operation in 2014.

The operation was coordinated by INTERPOL and is organised globally by a number of stakeholders, including the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC), the Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers (HMA WGEO), the pharmaceutical industry as well as electronic payment system providers