Week of action against medicines that can kill


Anyone who buys medicines over the Internet is putting their health at risk - and often exposing themselves to legal penalties. Fighting illegal practices and at the same time taking preventive measures were once again the main objectives of "Pangea IV": an international week of action to combat the illegal online trade in therapeutic products. As current worldwide figures reveal, increasing globalisation also means increasing organised crime in this area. More information means better prevention.

The worldwide action week involving regulatory authorities for medicines, customs and police took place during the week of 20 - 27 September. The main focus was on the three principal components of illegal online trading: the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), credit card payment systems, and the delivery service.

International co-operation

On a worldwide level, the authorities carrying out the controls during the week of action inspected a total of far more than 45'000 packages at around 400 postal hubs and airports, and seized almost 8000 of them. Some 13'500 websites were closed. In addition, 36 house searches were carried out and 55 suspects were arrested. Several international authorities co-ordinated this week of action, including Interpol, the World Customs Organization (WCO), and the Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC).
81 countries took part in this year's Operation Pangea, including Switzerland. Swissmedic, Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, worked closely with the Swiss Customs Authorities, the Swiss Post, and SWITCH, the registration office for Swiss Internet addresses.

Switzerland's focus

This year, Switzerland focused on Western Europe, because by no means every medicine sent from a country in this region is also produced there. Many of the products concerned contain dangerous active substances - and can even be lethal.
Swissmedic experts inspected and assessed nearly 350 suspicious packages retained by the customs post at the Zürich-Mulligen mail sorting centre. Virtually all of them contained medicines, although many consisted of only small quantities. Around 50 of them were seized and are now being examined at the Swissmedic laboratory. Many of them came from Portugal and Great Britain, although the medicines contained originate from dubious production centres such as India.

Several .ch websites have been taken down, and investigations continue on others.

For further information:

Swissmedic, Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products

Daniel Lüthi, Press Relations Officer
Tel. 031/ 322 02 76

Swiss Federal Customs Authorities

Stefanie Widmer, Deputy Head of Communication and Media,
Tel. 031/ 322 50 56