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International agencies crackdown on fake medicines

Joint media release between Australian Border Force and Therapeutic Goods Administration

24 October 2018

From 10 to 11 October 2018, the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) took part in an international operation to tackle counterfeit and illegal medicines purchased over the internet.

Operation Pangea is a worldwide operation that occurs annually, which aims to disrupt the organised criminal networks behind the online trade of these goods. Coordinated by the World Customs Organization and Interpol, Operation Pangea is in its eleventh year and brings together law enforcement agencies, health regulators, and private sector agencies from over 100 countries.

During Operation Pangea XI, ABF officers working in international mail facilities around Australia detected and seized 90 consignments, predominantly containing erectile dysfunction pills, painkillers and narcolepsy medication.

Port Operations Command acting Assistant Commissioner, Claire Rees, said the global operation builds on the vital work ABF officers do every day to protect the Australian community by stopping the importation of counterfeit and illegal goods, including medicines.

"Working together with the TGA, the ABF made a number of significant seizures. ABF officers drew on their training and expertise, supported by a range of technologies and intelligence. This has resulted in further investigations and importantly, prevented dangerous medicines from entering our community," A/g Assistant Commissioner Rees said.

"Consumers must be vigilant when purchasing medicines online. While it is convenient, it can also be illegal and dangerous. There are many illicit online pharmacies that manufacture counterfeit products in unregulated and unsanitary conditions. Purchasing such products puts the health of buyers and their children at risk."

"We continue to work with our TGA colleagues to target the criminal networks behind these imports, but consumers also need to play a role and should be aware of the risks involved in purchasing these products," A/g Assistant Commissioner Rees said.

The TGA deployed two specialist teams across key international mail gateway facilities to assist in examining incoming consignments.

Federal Health Department Deputy Secretary, Professor John Skerritt said Operation Pangea XI serves as a timely reminder to consumers about the dangers of obtaining therapeutic goods from unknown or unapproved sources.

"Buying online may seem like a simple, affordable option, but products bought online can be a serious risk to your health as they contain undisclosed and dangerous ingredients. These products could be counterfeit and not assessed for safety, quality and performance. While people may be tempted to buy these products because they are cheaper, they may waste money on products that may not work or may be harmful." Deputy Secretary Skerritt said.

"If you have a serious medical condition, always seek professional medical advice as to proper treatment options."

Media enquiries:

Australian Border Force media 02 6264 2244

Therapeutic Goods Administration media 02 6289 7400