Raising the stakes for fakes

  • by: |
  • 09/03/2014

Via Fierce Pharma – and they buried the lead

EU agents seize more than €10M worth of counterfeit drugs, arrest 12

Authorities from 8 European Union countries, backed by Europol and Eurojust, have arrested a dozen suspects and seized more than €10 million worth of counterfeit drugs, mostly fakes of erectile dysfunction drugs that an organized crime group was selling online. The raid, announced Monday, came after an investigation that lasted nearly two years.

According to Europol, law enforcement folks from Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom conducted simultaneous raids. They were backed up by Europol and Eurojust. In addition to seizing several million pills, which it estimated were worth well in excess of €10 million, the agents seized cash and luxury cars and froze bank accounts that contained €7.5 million.

The investigation originated in Spain, which was able to provide information for probes in Austria, France and the U.K., Europol said in a statement. It said the fakes originated in Asia, home to many of the counterfeit drug operations.

While erectile dysfunction drugs have long been a target of counterfeiters selling online, Europe is also seeing organized crime move into stealing and faking high-priced drugs, like cancer meds. Authorities this spring warned that vials of Roche's  cancer med Herceptin that had been stolen in Italy were showing up across the continent with little or none of its active ingredient.

Because some of the organized crime rings behind counterfeits are based in Europe, the FDA has assigned one of its criminal investigation officers to Europol in The Netherlands. The FDA estimates that 40,000 to 60,000 domain names could be tied to illegal online pharmacies at any given time, and that this number is in a constant state of flux.

Not mentioned in the article – but of relevance – is that in 2013 US National Association of Boards of Pharmacy found that only 257 of 10421 online pharmacies are legally legitimate businesses (less than 2.5%).  The remainder either have bogus registration credentials or domain names that make them “suspect.”


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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