illegal prescription tablets
Source: Department of Health, NI

Authorities in Northern Ireland have seized more than 242,000 unlicensed or illegal prescription tablets purchased online and destined for addresses throughout NI.

The medicines seized include Diazepam, used for anti-anxiety treatment, Pregabalin, used for epilepsy and anxiety, steroids and Zopiclone.

Other prescription medicines recovered included Tamoxifen, often used in the treatment of breast cancer and Salbutamol inhalers, frequently used in the treatment of asthma.

“Co-operation between law enforcement agencies and government departments has led to the seizure of over 242,000 illegal and unlicensed tablets purchased online and destined for addresses throughout Northern Ireland,” justice minister Naomi Long was reported as saying.

The minister, together with health minister Robin Swann and assistant chief constable Mark McEwan PSNI were highlighting Northern Ireland’s input to the global, Interpol coordinated Operation Pangea XV, which saw multiple packages of tablets intercepted and seized, with a street value of almost £250,000.

She praised the concerted efforts made by PSNI, Border Force and officials from the Department of Health Medicines Regulatory Group during a specific week of action in June.

Health minister Swann said: “The illicit medicines recovered during Operation Pangea were destined for addresses throughout Northern Ireland, leaving none of our communities immune from the dangers presented by drugs like these.

“People who buy from illegal sources do not know where the tablets have originated or what they really contain. My Department’s Medicines Regulatory Group works proactively all year round with its key partners, including Police and Border Force to highlight and curtail this activity when possible and I am grateful for their ongoing commitment. “

Speaking about the operation, assistant chief constable McEwan said: “Operation Pangea sends a clear message to those involved in the supply of counterfeit and unlawful prescription drugs, that we will do everything in our collective power to disrupt and prevent the importation and supply.

“I want to warn anyone considering buying drugs online. These unregulated drugs are often produced in illicit, unhygienic laboratories, and are made to look like the genuine product.  On their own or in any combination these drugs are incredibly dangerous to take.”

Darren Brabon, interim assistant director, Border Force, said: “Border Force, along with our partners in the Organized Crime Task Force are alive to the threat posed by the importation of unlicensed medicines. Through a collaborative approach we have removed a substantial amount of illicit medicines from reaching the streets.  Intensification exercises like Op Pangea help to combat this illicit trade.”

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