2016’s Operation Pangea targets nearly 5,000 illicit drug websites


Interpol, FDA and others coordinate an annual cleanup of fake drugs and illicit dispensing

Pangea IX, this year’s effort to police the distribution of fake or illicit drugs, and the websites that promote them to unwitting consumers, concluded on June 7. According to press statements from FDA and Interpol, the international police organization, the takedown this year included suspending 4,932 websites, seizure of $53 million worth of potentially dangerous medicines, 393 arrests worldwide, and the launching of 700 more investigations that could lead to further arrests. Overall, 103 countries were involved this year.

Operation Pangea IX was coordinated by INTERPOL 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) the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) and private sector companies including Discover, G2, LegitScript, MasterCard, PayPal and VISA. The latter three organizations, members of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, are involved because e-commerce transactions from the illicit websites often involve their payment clearance systems; that Center is also supported by some of the leading web search engines, such as Google and Bing (but not, it’s worth noting, China’s Alibaba; China is widely recognized as the source of much of the fake medicine circulating in the world.)

Pangea and related enforcement activities are part of a never-ending process of trying to regulate the distribution and sale of fake, adulterated or illicitly marketed drugs. In the developed world, drug-traceability systems like the US’ Drug Supply Chain Security Act, or Europe’s Falsified Medicines Directive, will tighten global supply chains but not close off the illicit activities. Interpol noted in its press statement that at least 40 of the ongoing investigations point to organized crime as participants.

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