Operation Pangea is an international week of action to stop the online sale of counterfeit drugs. The annual global effort has been in place since 2008 and is coordinated by INTERPOL. Operation Pangea X occurred September 12-18, 2017. This year’s effort was the largest on record, with 197 police, customs, and health regulatory authorities from a record 123 countries, seizing 25 million illicit and counterfeit medicines worldwide.
The intent of each Pangea operation is to build upon the best practices identified from previous operations to combat counterfeit drugs. For the first time, Operation Pangea X paid particular attention to the illicit trade in opioid painkillers, in particular the drug fentanyl. Fentanyl is a powerful narcotic that has been linked to thousands of overdoses and deaths worldwide. Numerous websites exclusively selling fentanyl were closed down including one called “Where to buy fentanyl without a prescription.” In addition to fentanyl, fake and illicit medicines seized included dietary supplements, pain reduction pills, epilepsy medication, erectile dysfunction pills, anti-psychotic medication, and nutritional products.
Operation Pangea X also focused on the sale of illicit medical devices, such as dental devices and implants, condoms, syringes, medical testing strips and surgical equipment. Illicit devices worth an estimated 500,000 (USD) were recovered. Counterfeit contact lenses were discovered for sale in Jordan following complaints from customers, and authorities warned the fake lenses could cause serious eye damage.
Key results from Operation Pangea X:
- 400 arrests worldwide with more than 51 million (USD) worth of potentially dangerous medicines seized;
- 1,058 investigations launched, 3,584 websites taken offline and the suspension of more than 3,000 online adverts for illicit pharmaceuticals;
- 13 warning letters sent to the operators of 401 websites; nearly 100 website domain names seized;
- 715,000 packages inspected and 470,000 seized by customs and regulatory authorities; 500 parcels being detained for appropriate compliance follow up; Parcels found in violation of the US Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act are not permitted to be brought into the country.
“With more and more people purchasing everyday items including medicines online, criminals are exploiting this trend to make a profit, putting lives at risk in the process,” said INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Tim Morris. “The fact that we still see such strong outcomes after 10 years of Pangea operations demonstrates how the online sale of illicit medicines is an ongoing, and ever increasing, challenge for law enforcement and regulatory authorities,” concluded Mr. Morris.
At CSIP, we are encouraged by the success of Operation Pangea X and the focus on removing access to counterfeit medicines worldwide. As always, we will continue our efforts to strengthen our partnerships and educate consumers on dangerous counterfeit drugs sold online.
The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) and our member companies have the shared goal of helping address the growing problem of consumer access to illegitimate pharmaceutical products on the Internet. Continue to read this blog for updates on CSIP’s education, enforcement and information-sharing efforts.