Over 51,000 illegal drugs seized


Over 51,000 black market medicines and prescription drugs have been seized in the Republic as part of a week-long international operation involving authorities in more than 80 countries.

The Irish Medicines Board (IMB), Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána all participated in Operation Pangea IV, which targets the online sale of illegal drugs.

Overall, 2.4 million drugs worth over €5 million were recovered and 13,495 websites shut down as a result of the global operation, which involved law enforcement agencies, national medicines boards, Internet Service Providers and payment systems providers.

In the Republic, some 51,621 tablets, capsules and creams with an estimated value in excess of €150,000 was recovered after 492 packages were seized. The medicines captured included mood stabilisers, weight loss tablets and erectile dysfunction drugs.

In Northern Ireland, drugs worth £150,000 were seized after 150 packages containing steroids, diazepam and other medicines were intercepted.

Operation Pangea IV is the fourth such action coordinated by Interpol and the World Health Organisation (WHO) against websites that supply illegal and dangerous medicines.

The first operation took place in 2008 and involved just eight countries including Ireland. Some 470 websites have been shut down or restricted from selling illegal medicines from Ireland since then, according to IMB.

“Counterfeit and illegal medicines pose a serious and potentially fatal threat to public health," said Pat O'Mahony, chief executive of the board. “The IMB strongly advises consumers not to purchase medicines through any unauthorised sources as there can be no guarantee that they are genuine or safe.

"Some of these medicines have been shown to contain too little or too much of the active ingredient while others contain the wrong active ingredient altogether. As a result, there is a very real danger that these medicines will actually damage the health of those who use them."

Mr O'Mahoney also warned that as many criminal gangs are behind the sale of counterfeit medicines, people buying such items online put themselves at risk of credit card fraud and identity theft.

Under Irish law, the sale of prescription only medicines by mail order is prohibited. This prohibition also includes internet supplies drugs.