Global crackdown against counterfeit and illegal medicines

5 July 2013

Between 18 and 25 June 2013, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS), the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) took part in a week-long international crackdown on fake and illegal medicines purchased over the Internet.

Operation Pangea is a worldwide operation that occurs annually, which aims to disrupt the organised crime networks behind the online trade of fake and illicit medicines. Coordinated by the World Customs Organization and Interpol, Operation Pangea VI brought together customs, health regulators, national police and private sector agencies from over 100 countries.

During Operation Pangea VI, Australian agencies seized 35 packages from overseas at the Brisbane and Melbourne mail centres. Most of the substances detected were erectile dysfunction or domestic pet medications.

ACBPS National Manager Compliance Assurance, Anthony Seebach, commended the agencies' collaborative work.

"Working together with the TGA and the APVMA, Customs and Border Protection made a number of seizures, some leading to further investigations and importantly, preventing dangerous medicines from entering our community," Mr Seebach said.

"While the Internet can be a convenient place to purchase therapeutic goods, consumers should be aware of the dangers associated with buying medicines online. Consumers must ensure they are not breaking the law, wasting their money or inadvertently damaging their health or the health of their children and pets.

"Taking action against those behind the online trade of fake and illicit medicines is only one step. It is equally important for the public to recognise the significant risks they take when purchasing medicines from illicit online pharmacies. Many products available online are manufactured in unregulated and unsanitary conditions."

National Manager for the TGA, Professor John Skerritt, said Australia's involvement in Operation Pangea VI is a reminder for consumers of the risks associated with purchasing medicines from unknown overseas-based websites.

"The TGA advises consumers to exercise extreme caution when purchasing medicines over the Internet. These products may contain undisclosed and potentially harmful ingredients and may not meet the same standards of quality, safety and efficacy as those approved by the TGA for supply in Australia," Professor Skerritt said.

APVMA Executive Director Regulatory Strategy and Compliance, Neville Matthews, said the week-long operation demonstrated that the majority of Australian online stores sell legitimate veterinary products registered for use in Australia. Unfortunately this was not always the case for products coming in from overseas stores.

"While these products may be safe and effective to use, they haven't been through the rigorous testing and registration process required in Australia.

"So for peace of mind and the wellbeing and safety of animals, and the people exposed to treated animals, particularly children - flip the pack and check for APVMA on the back," Mr Matthews said.

Media enquiries

Customs and Border Protection Media 02 6275 6793

Therapeutic Goods Administration Media 02 6289 7400

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority Media 02 6210 4701