Government officials have seized over three million medicines and medical devices valued at over £9m as part of a global operation tackling the illegal online sale of medicines and medical devices, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said.

In the UK, 113,000 illegally operating websites were also removed, or had their URLs blocked, whereas search warrants were executed, with the arrest of seven criminals.

‘Operation Pangea’, a week long action coordinated by Interpol, ran from May 18 to 25.

The operation saw over 100 countries joining forces to seize non-compliant medical products and also to identify and remove thousands of illegally operating websites and URLs offering medicines and devices.

The operation also involved coordinating the arrests of several suspected organised criminals.

The list of illegal medicines seized include anti-depressants, erectile dysfunction tablets, painkillers, anabolic steroids, and slimming pills.

Andy Morling, head of enforcement at the MHRA, said: “Criminals selling medicines and devices illegally are not only breaking the law but have no regard for your health. Taking fake or unlicensed medicines or using a non-compliant medical device could put your health and safety in danger and may lead to serious health issues.

“Operation Pangea is a powerful example of what can be achieved through partnership working to tackle this kind of offending. We will continue to work closely with our international partners and the UK Border Force to prevent unlicensed medicines from entering the UK, to identify illegally operating websites and to bring those criminals behind them to justice.”

The MHRA will be following the week of action with a detailed analysis of the global results to create a better understanding of current and emerging threats.

This work includes the identification of ‘hotspot’ exporting countries, favoured high-risk medicines being traded on the black market, and the ever-evolving business models of criminals worldwide seeking to take advantage of the public.

The MHRA’s #FakeMeds campaign aims to encourage people in the UK who choose to buy medication online to take steps to make sure they are purchasing from safe and legitimate sources.

The campaign also highlights the dangers of fake medicines sold online and the negative health effects that taking them can have. It also encourages people to report suspicious offers and any side effects experienced to the Yellow Card scheme.

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