Thousands of dangerous medicines seized as part of global operation

Date published: 23 October 2018

Tens of thousands of illegally imported and unauthorised medicines have been seized in Northern Ireland as part of an international operation.

During Operation Pangea XI, multiple packages containing some 60,000 tablets destined for addresses throughout Northern Ireland were intercepted.  They included diazepam, pregabalin and zopiclone.

Operation Pangea XI took place between 9 – 16 October 2018 and involved 116 countries, acting together to safeguard public health. The Operation aimed to disrupt the illicit online supply of medicines as well as raising awareness of the significant health risks associated with buying medicines from illegal websites and social media platforms.

INTERPOL coordinated the operation with support from the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC), the Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers (WGEO), Europol, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI), as well as Twitter, Facebook and payment card companies.

Anthony Harbinson, Director, Safer Communities at the Department of Justice, and Chair of the Organised Crime Taskforce (OCTF) Strategy Group welcomed the ongoing co-operation that exists between law enforcement bodies and partner agencies, including Department of Health.

He said “I am delighted with the results announced today. Working together we can help safeguard public health and bring to justice the criminals preying on peoples’ vulnerabilities and ill-health”.

Speaking about the operation, Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton, Chair of the OCTF Drug Sub Group said: “Operation Pangea is a really powerful example of effective collaboration at local, national and international level between the various stakeholders working to restrict the supply of counterfeit and unlawful prescription drugs whilst developing harm reduction strategies to keep people safe.              

"The searches are typical of our year round activity but the misuse of prescription drugs and the deaths that result from it cannot be solved by policing alone. We'll continue to work with our law enforcement partners to prevent the importation and supply of illicit and counterfeit drugs by proactively investigating the Organised Crime Groups who supply them but the continued partnership working with the broadest range of stakeholders in government and communities is key to preventing drug misuse and keeping people safe."

Peter Moore, Senior Medicines Enforcement Officer with the Department of Health’s Medicines Regulatory Group said; “Participation in Operation Pangea is part of our continuing efforts to reduce the harm that can be caused to the Northern Ireland public by those making use of the internet to commit crime or source their medicines. The operation has shown that the illicit medicines recovered were destined for addresses throughout Northern Ireland leaving none of our communities immune from the dangers presented by drugs like these.”

“This problem is not something we can tackle in isolation we are committed to working collaboratively with other agencies to stop the supply of illegal medicines over the internet. Operation Pangea has involved the coordinated efforts of a number of agencies including the Police, Border Force, Department of  Health officials and others, who will continue to be diligent all year round in their efforts and are determined to combat this serious problem”.

“Medication sold from disreputable websites can be poor quality at best and dangerous at worst. We urge the public not to be tempted by what look like cut prices or fooled by professional looking websites offering medicines without prescription. Taking short cuts and using these medicines could expose you to a dangerous counterfeit or substandard medicine”.

“People should take prescription only medicines in consultation with their GP, pharmacist or other healthcare professionals who have access to patient health records and can take into account the risks and benefits associated with every medicine”.

Interpol have today reported that 500 tonnes of illicit pharmaceuticals have been seized world-wide during the Operation.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The OCTF was established in 2000 and works to reduce the harm caused by organised crime, through multi agency partnership and to secure a safe community in Northern Ireland, where we respect the law and each other.
  2. OCTF provides an essential strategic leadership forum for tackling organised crime in Northern Ireland.
  3. Partner organisations involved in the OCTF Drugs sub group include: Department of Justice, Police Service of Northern Ireland, Department of Health, HMRC, Border Force, NCA, PPS, the Coroner’s Office, PHA, FSNI, Royal Mail, NIPS.
  4. For further  information about the work of the OCTF  visit the OCTF website.  
  5. More information on the OCTF Annual Report and Threat Assessements is available on the Department of Justice website
  6. For all media queries, please contact the DOJ Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 028 90 378110

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