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Net pharmacies raided in nine countries

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Raids hit suspected internet drug peddling operations in nine countries on Wednesday as part of a international crackdown coordinated by Interpol.

Operation Pangea targeted the sales of unlicensed or prescription-only medicines over the net. The drugs on offer claimed to offer relief from treatments ranging from diabetes and obesity to hair loss.

The provenance of the drugs was unclear. Their suitability for sufferers who bought them is even more uncertain, since those running illegal pharmacy sites routinely fail to check medical records, leaving would-be patients at risk.

"Buying medicines from illegal and unregulated websites poses significant risks, not least that the buyer is putting their health in danger by taking drugs which have no guarantee of safety, quality or effectiveness," said Jean-Michel Louboutin, Interpol's executive director of police services.

The raids took place in countries including Canada, Germany, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. The names of the firms raided and how many arrests were made are yet to emerge.

Investigations in some countries are ongoing, so further raids may follow.

In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) raided 12 addresses linked to seven internet sites under suspicion of selling unlicensed medicines that claimed to treat conditions ranging from impotency and obesity to steroid abuse. Thousands of packs of unlicensed medicines and some computers and related documents were seized during the raids. In addition, takedown orders against the allegedly infringing websites were filed with ISPs.

The US Food and Drug Administration was also involved in the operation but has not yet published an update at the time of going to press.

Many of the participating countries have organised raids on their own in the past, but Operation Pangea is billed as the the first time internationally coordinated raids have taken place. Organisations including the Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime and the World Health Organisation’s International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce teamed up with Interpol to organise the crackdown. ®

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