€150,000 haul of medicines seized in net crackdown
A crackdown on the online sale of counterfeit and illegal medicines in Ireland has led to the seizure of products valued at more than €150,000 in just one week.
The initiative, which was co-ordinated by Interpol, involved the Irish Medicines Board (IMB), the Customs Service and the gardai.
It resulted here in the confiscation of 51,621 tablets, capsules and creams, which included products for weight loss and erectile dysfunction as well as mood stabilisers.
Customs officers seized 492 packages during the week of action, mainly by intercepting them in the postal system.
Ireland was among more than 80 countries which took part in the operation, codenamed Pangea, that focused on websites supplying illegal and dangerous medicines.
This was the fourth Pangea operation to be launched and was the largest internet-based action of its type in support of the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce.
Internet service providers, the electronic payment industry and delivery services worked together with the national medicines boards, police and customs, to tackle the trade.
Pat O'Mahony, chief executive of the IMB, said that counterfeit and illegal medicines posed a serious and potentially fatal threat to public health.
"Some of these medicines have been shown to contain too little or too much of the active ingredient while others contain the wrong ingredient and, as a result, there is a very real danger they could damage the health of those who use them," Mr O'Mahony said.
He pointed out that criminal networks were behind many activities linked to the online sale of counterfeit medicines and purchasers could also be exposing themselves to potential credit card fraud and identity theft when handing over their personal details.
The operation led to arrests across the globe and the seizure of products that also included antibiotics, hormones and steroids, anti-depressants, painkillers, cardiac medication, cholesterol-lowering medication, stimulants, cancer medication and insulin.
Around 13,500 websites were shut down around the world. Under Irish law, the sale of prescription-only medicines by mail order is banned and this includes internet supplies.