Operation Pangea is a yearly recurring operation in which Interpol aims to remove the online sale of counterfeit and/or illicit medicines and medical devices. Furthermore, the operation aims to make the public aware of the the risks associated with buying medicines and medical devices online from unregulated websites. During the Pangea XIV operation, which took place between 18 and 25 May 2021, thousands of illicit online pharmacies were taken offline, numerous medical devices and medication have been seized by local customs and arrests were made.
Having counterfeit and illicit medication and medical devices on the market is dangerous for multiple reasons. In case of counterfeit or illicit medication the quality and composition of the medicine cannot be guaranteed. It is possible that this medication contains no active ingredients, the wrong amount of active ingredients, dangerous ingredients or the products have a modified expiration date. In case of counterfeit or illicit medical devices the quality of the medical device cannot be guaranteed, and the medical device can be malfunctioning or carry out malicious acts.
The police, customs and health regulatory authorities from 92 countries worked together with Interpol to make this 14th operation a success. This year, Interpol stated that 113,020 links of online marketplaces around the world were shut down. The Swiss authorities released the information that worldwide a total of 9 million units of illegal and counterfeit medicinal products were seized. As part of Pangea is to raise awareness amongst the public, the countries involved also organized social media campaigns.
In 2020 as well as 2021, a rise in fake medication and medical devices was noticed related to the Covid-19 crisis, such as facemasks, hand sanitizers and antiviral medication. It seems that i.a. illicit online pharmacies around the world are using the Covid-19 crisis to their benefit. More than half of all medical devices that were seized during this years operation were fake Covid-19 tests, which on its own already lead to 277 arrests and the seizing of goods with a worth of more than 23 million dollars.