RCMP: Keeping Canadians Safe: Fighting Counterfeit and Unlicensed Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices

Ottawa, June 19, 2015 – For the eighth consecutive year, Canada participated in Operation Pangea, an INTERPOL-lead global endeavour which targets the sale of counterfeit and unlicensed pharmaceutical products and medical devices. This week of action took place from June 9 to 16 and resulted in a record seizure of 20.7 million potentially life-threatening pharmaceuticals and medical devices worldwide, with a value of US$81 million.

This year’s operation was the largest to date, with 115 countries and 236 police, customs, and health regulatory agencies participating worldwide. Private partners from the Internet and payment industries also supported the operation.

In Canada, the effort was a joint collaboration with INTERPOL-Ottawa, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Health Canada and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Results were unveiled on June 18, sending a strong message to the public that counterfeit and unlicensed pharmaceutical products are not safe and can have fatal consequences.

Here in Canada, approximately 3700 packages originating from 21 countries were inspected. Of these, almost 90% were either refused or seized as they contained counterfeit and/or unlicensed health products, such as prescription drugs. The total street value of these products is approximately $850,000 CAD. The products confiscated this year include counterfeit prescriptions drugs such as erectile dysfunction medications, and unlicensed natural health products and weight loss medications.

“Crime has no borders. International collaboration with our partners through operations like Pangea are vital when tackling criminal threats to Canada, to law enforcement partners, and to the safety, security, and economic well-being of citizens around the world,” says RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson.

In particular, international collaboration between Canada, France, the UK, the US, INTERPOL and the private sector resulted in the suspension of two Internet domain names, selling the potentially lethal and illicit diet and body building drug 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) after one woman died in the UK and a man in France was left seriously ill after taking the substance.

“The CBSA is proud to play an integral part in Operation Pangea alongside the RCMP, INTERPOL, and Health Canada”, said Martin Bolduc, Vice-President of Operations at the CBSA. “Our officers posted in Canada’s international mail centres work diligently to protect the health and safety of Canadians from those who would seek to take advantage of us.”

“We work hand in hand with our global partners, to combat counterfeit and illicit pharmaceuticals sold online. This integrated approach allows us to detect and disrupt criminal activity, making it difficult for criminals to execute their plans,” says INTERPOL-Ottawa Director, Inspector Rob Gilchrist.

The RCMP and its partners wish to remind the public that there is no guarantee that medications or medical devices purchased via the Internet are genuine or safe.

Canadians are strongly encouraged to be vigilant, choose legitimate pharmacies when purchasing medicines and medical devices and to share any information on suspected illicit activity with their local police.

To learn more about counterfeit pharmaceuticals and this year’s Operation Pangea in Canada, join the RCMP, Health Canada and Canada Border Services Agency for a Twitter Chat today at 1 p.m. (EDT) on the RCMP’s Twitter account @rcmpgrcpolice or by using the hashtag #fakemedschat.