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22 June, 2024
 
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Cyprus seizes 5,000+ illegal meds in PANGEA operation

Unveiling the dark web of illegal pharma trade

Pavlos Neophytos

The fear of social stigmatization among our fellow citizens regarding diseases such as mental illness, HIV/AIDS, and erectile dysfunction is being intentionally exploited.

This exploitation, primarily through websites, involves supplying them with pharmaceutical products that violate various prohibitions and restrictions under Cyprus legislation, simultaneously jeopardizing their health.

This global phenomenon gained attention during the International Police Operation PANGEA XVI, held from October 3 to 10, 2023, in which Cyprus participated.

According to recent police statements, more than 5,000 illegal pharmaceutical products were confiscated during coordinated operations in Cyprus as part of Operation PANGEA XVI.

These operations, involving on-the-spot checks and search warrants, were conducted simultaneously worldwide, with 89 INTERPOL member countries participating. The objective was to identify and seize falsified medicines and medical devices traded online.

Internationally, 19% of seized products are psychotherapeutic drugs. Mr. Kkolos, a senior pharmacist at the Ministry of Health, highlighted peculiarities in this patient group and emphasized the need to sensitize citizens to obtain medicines from legal sources.

He pointed out that social stigma surrounding diseases like mental illness, HIV/AIDS, and erectile dysfunction is exploited by attackers who take advantage of citizens' efforts to avoid stigmatization by ordering drugs through questionable websites.

The low cost advertised by these websites also attracts customers, despite the risks.

Mr. Kkolos stressed the importance of obtaining medicines from legal sources, citing the safeguards in place for authentic drugs within the legitimate distribution chain.

He expressed concern that, despite awareness campaigns and European legislation establishing legal websites, the issue persists globally, particularly during operations like PANGEA, where numerous products are found and confiscated.

Operation PANGEA XVI in Cyprus involved multiple agencies, including the Pharmaceutical Services, Customs Department, Postal Services Department, Health Services Department, Competent Authority of medical devices, Industry and Technology Service, State Laboratory, Veterinary Services, and the Cyprus Police.

According to Mr. Kkolos, post offices are common locations for packages containing illegal pharmaceuticals.

In light of these challenges, Mr. Kkolos provided a clear recommendation to the public: obtain medicines from pharmacies, always with a doctor's prescription, to ensure authenticity.

He warned against alternative procurement from questionable websites, emphasizing the global health risks associated with counterfeit drugs.

During Operation PANGEA XVI, illegal pharmaceutical products worth over 6.5 million euros were seized globally. Additionally, 1,300 illegal websites were detected and deleted, 325 cases are under investigation, and 72 individuals were arrested for related offenses.

Notably, 19% of seized products were psychotherapeutic preparations. Mr. Kkolos highlighted peculiarities in the population that takes drugs for mental illness, emphasizing the risks associated with counterfeit medicines.

INTERPOL Secretary-General Jürgen Stock underscored the seriousness of falsified pharmaceutical products and the misuse of regulated medicines, stating that Operation PANGEA XVI played a crucial role in removing harmful products from the market and dismantling criminal networks involved in trafficking falsified medicines, addressing a serious threat to global public safety.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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Cyprus  |  medicine  |  pharmacy  |  health

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