Major increase in illicit medicines detected and detained ‘very concerning’

Additional 103,000 dosage units detained in joint Operation Pangea 2021

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) enforcement section detained over 1.6m dosage units of falsified and other illegal medicines in 2020, an increase of 58 per cent on 2019.

The national health products regulator also announced today that it had detained a further 103,000 dosage units of illegal prescription medicines this past week as part of its ‘Operation Pangea’ actions, in partnership with Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána.

Operation Pangea is an annual Interpol-coordinated international week of action targeting the online sale of falsified and illegal medicines via illicit online suppliers and/or ecommerce platforms.

While the 2020 figure was the highest ever detention for illicit medicines in a single year, it included one detention of over 370,000 tablets.

In the 12 months of 2020, the most significant categories of illegal products had included sedatives (36%), erectile dysfunction medicines (30%), analgesics (9%) and anabolic steroids (6%).

The 2020 HPRA figures included: sedative medicines 583,805 units (344,758 units detained in 2019) and erectile dysfunction 484,846 units were detained (283,989 in 2019).

Last year, 56,876 units of Covid-19 medicines were detained, the majority of which related to traditional Chinese medicine not approved or authorised for use in Ireland.

Dr Lorraine Nolan, HPRA CEO

A total of 482 websites, e-commerce listings and/or social media pages amended or shut down and three prosecution cases initiated related to the importation or distribution of anabolic steroid products, and eleven voluntary formal cautions were issued.

“Our detentions over many years have identified that a significant proportion of these products are falsely labelled and do not contain the type or quantity of active ingredient as stated on the product information. Worryingly, they have also been found to contain harmful substances,” said Dr Lorraine Nolan, HPRA Chief Executive.

Under the law, the unauthorised supply of prescription medicines. including via mail order and the internet, is prohibited.

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