A record number of fake online pharmacies were shut down in May as part of a global crackdown. More than 100,000 online marketplaces offering illicit drugs were removed as part of Interpol’s Operation Pangea.
In the UK, fake medicines worth more than $13m were seized as part of the efforts. It marked the biggest week for the operation since 2008, as criminals cashed in on the demand for Covid-related products.
Between 18 and 25 May, 277 arrests were made, involving 92 countries, and pharmaceuticals worth more than $20m seized. Most of the illegal medical devices seized were fake or unauthorized Covid-19 testing kits.
UK authorities removed more than 3,100 advertising links for the illegal sale and supply of unlicensed medicines and 43 UK-based websites were closed down.
Secretary general Jurgen Stock said the sale of illicit medicines put thousands of lives at risk.
“The online sale of illicit medicines continues to pose a threat to public safety, which is why operations such as Pangea remain vital in combating this global health scourge,” he said.
“As the pandemic forced more people to move their lives online, criminals were quick to target these new customers.
“As crimes continue to evolve amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the authorities must remain vigilant in dismantling criminal networks involved in the proliferation of illicit pharmaceutical products especially in online platforms.” The global pharmaceutical industry is worth more than $1tn.