Published: December 2010

Global operation against illegal and counterfeit medicines

Information on this subject has been updated. Read the most recent information.

Prescriber Update 31(4): 33
December 2010

New Zealand recently took part in an international enforcement operation with over 40 countries throughout the world. The operation targeted the online sale of counterfeit and illegal medicines, and was designed to raise awareness of the dangers of buying medicines over the internet.

Operation Pangea III, carried out between 5 and 12 October of this year, resulted in multiple arrests across the globe and the seizure of over one million illicit and counterfeit pills.

In New Zealand the drug regulator Medsafe worked with the NZ Customs Service to intensively screen all mail entering the country during the week of the operation.

From over 400 consignments referred to Medsafe by the NZ Customs Service, 180 were detained because they were found to contain prescription medicines used for the treatment of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hair loss and erectile dysfunction. Oral contraceptives and antibiotics were also commonly found. Medsafe noted that these consignments were imported from 35 countries around the world.

Operation Pangea III indicates that consumers in New Zealand continue to self diagnose and self medicate for conditions requiring treatment that should only occur after consultation with a health care professional.

Health care professionals are advised to warn patients about the dangers of obtaining medicines over the internet and to consider this possibility if patients present with unexplained symptoms or possible adverse effects.