Global operation targets dangerous medicines

26 September 2017

Joint media release by the Australian Border Force, Therapeutic Goods Administration and Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority

Dozens of counterfeit and illicit medicines have been seized at the Australian border as part of an international crackdown involving the Australian Border Force (ABF), the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

Operation Pangea, led by INTERPOL in cooperation with the World Customs Organization, brings together customs, health and law enforcement agencies from over 100 countries and is now in its tenth year.

During a global week of action between 12-19 September, ABF officers working in international mail facilities around Australia detected and seized 48 consignments, predominantly containing erectile dysfunction pills, cancer medication and nutritional supplements.

ABF Strategic Border Command acting Assistant Commissioner, Rod O’Donnell, said the annual operation builds on the work ABF officers do every day.

“People ordering counterfeit medicines over the internet is not new and is now a truly global problem. The ABF has a proven track-record of detecting illicit and dangerous goods like these before they reach the community using a range of technology and intelligence methods,” A/g Assistant Commissioner O’Donnell said.

“We continue to work with our TGA and APVMA colleagues to target the criminal networks behind these imports, but consumers also need play a role and should be aware of the risks involved in purchasing these products.”

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 the operation serves as a timely reminder to consumers about the dangers of obtaining therapeutic goods from unknown or unapproved sources.

“Buying online can 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,” Deputy Secretary Skerritt said.

“While people may be tempted to buy counterfeit products, there are significant risks buying these products online which can cause significant harm, leave consumers out of pocket and could be illegal. If you have a serious medical condition, always seek professional medical advice as to proper treatment options.”

APVMA CEO, Dr Chris Parker said operations like this also help to protect Australia’s pets and animals through the identification of unregistered vet medicines being illegally imported.

“A lot of these products have not been through the APVMA’s robust scientific assessment and may not be safe or effective to use on your pets,” Dr Parker said.

“Just because a product is registered for use in another country, does not mean it’s legal to import, supply and use in Australia so it’s best to check with the APVMA before you make a purchase.”

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