Regulatory agencies worldwide have combined with Interpol and raided businesses in nine countries which were suspected of illegally supplying drugs over the internet.

Operation Pangea was co-ordinated by the Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime, Interpol and the World Health Organisation’s International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce. The raids represent the first time that action has been taken on an international scale with participating countries including Canada, Germany, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, the USA and the UK.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said that it visited 12 residential and commercial addresses in the south of England relating to seven internet sites believed to be selling unlicensed medicines such as prescription-only drugs claiming to treat conditions such as diabetes, impotency, obesity and hair loss. MHRA investigators seized over 1,000 packs of unlicensed medicines, a number of computers and related documentation.

Danny Lee-Frost, head of operations at the MHRA, said the operation “demonstrates our continued commitment to safeguard public health and highlights the leading role we play internationally in getting our European and international counterparts to tackle this global issue on the same day as us”. He added that the action in the UK “should serve as a stark warning to those who are engaged in any way with supplying medicines illegally”.

He concluded by saying that “if you are illegally selling or supplying medicines, we will use all appropriate measures available to stop you, including prosecution and confiscation”.

The MHRA said that there are currently 52 live investigations that have an internet connection where medicines legislation has been potentially breached. 10 such cases are currently with lawyers pending prosecution.