Illegal medicines worth €375,000 have been seized during an annual Garda and Customs operation this year.
Almost 90,000 units of illegal prescription medicines, most of them sourced online, were seized during the operation, according to the State’s medicines watchdog.
This is significantly down on the 200,000 units seized during the same operation last year, but up on the 60,000 detained in 2016, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) said.
The biggest seizures by volume were of anabolic steroids, which accounted for almost 30,000 units detained.
Sedatives accounted for over 25,000 units in the haul, which was put on display in the HPRA’s headquarters in Dublin on Tuesday morning. Most of these drugs are imported by criminal gangs for resale on the street.
The week-long Operation Pangea X, which is carried out with police and customs authorities across Europe each year, resulted in over 10.1 million illegal medicines and medical devices worth about $14 million (€12 million) being seized in the 61 countries involved.
Globally, 4,990 websites and web pages on social media, e-commerce suites and other advertisement platforms were shut down or are in the process of being shut down, according to Interpol, which co-ordinated the action.
The Irish seizures also included 5,477 units of analgesics, 5,700 erectile disfunction drugs and 14,009 units of other drugs.
So far this year, the HPRA, Customs and the Garda have detained nearly 400,000 units of drugs being supplied illegally online, valued at 1.39 million. Their ongoing action aimed a safeguarding public health has also resulted in 14 social media pages and 10 e-commerce advertisements being taken offline. In addition, 56 websites were investigated to force them to either close or stop selling medicines into Ireland.
HPRA chief executive Lorraine Nolan said it was concerning that so many illegal medicines had been seized since the start of the year. "Falsified medicines and medical devices can appear legitimate, but we can't stress enough that there are simply no guarantees as to what is contained in these products."
“Members of the public are putting their health at significant risk by buying medicines from unverified and unregulated sources.”
Of particular concern to the HPRA is the continuing illegal trade in anabolic steroids. “We are very concerned that consumers are purchasing anabolid steroids from illegal suppliers without awareness or knowledge of the potentially serious consequences for their health and wellbeing.”
The authority has begun a campaign called “ZeroGains” designed to highly the health risks involved, with an associated website, zerogains.ie.