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IMB Target Online Sale of Counterfeit and Illegal Medicines

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The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) in association with Revenue's Customs Service and An Garda Síochána took part in the INTERPOL co-ordinated operation Pangea IV in a fight against the online sale of counterfeit and illegal medicines.

Authorities from more than 80 countries were involved in this week-long initiative focusing on websites that supply illegal and dangerous medicines. The initiative which took place from 20 to 27 September 2011, is the largest internet–based action of its kind in support of the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT).

Substances detained in Ireland included products for weight loss, erectile dysfunction as well as mood stabilisers. A total of 492 packages containing 51,621 tablets, capsules and creams with an estimated value in excess of €150,000 were intercepted by Customs officers.

With the help of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), electronic payment industry and delivery services 470 illegal websites were closed or curtailed from illegally supplying medicines into Ireland. Pat O'Mahony, Chief Executive of the IMB, said that "counterfeit and illegal medicines pose a serious and potentially fatal threat to public health."

"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," he said. "Furthermore, criminal networks are behind many of the activities related to the online sale of counterfeit medicines so purchasers may also be exposing themselves to potential credit card fraud and identity theft when handing over their personal details via these sites," he added.

On an international scale inspections resulted in the detention of 2.4 million items of illegal and counterfeit medicines. Detained products were largely comprised of weight loss tablets, erectile dysfunction tablets and capsules, antibiotics, hormones, steroid products, anti-depressants, pain killers, cardiac medication, cholesterol lowering medication, stimulants/amphetamines, cancer medication and insulin.

Under Irish law, the sale of prescription only medicines by mail order is prohibited. This prohibition includes internet supplies of prescription only medicines. The IMB, in conjunction the Revenue's Customs Service and An Garda Síochána, continually monitors and investigates instances of illegal supply of medicinal products via the internet and actively enforce suspected breaches of the law.

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