Malaysia to stop flow of illegal medicine online

KUALA LUMPUR - THE Customs Department, Health Ministry and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) are hot on the trail of syndicates bringing in illegal pharmaceuticals.

The Health Ministry's Pharmaceutical Division senior director Datuk Eisah A. Rahman said there were a number of websites peddling unregulated and untested pharmaceuticals.

"We have collaborated with a number of agencies - MCMC and Customs Department - to shut down these websites and to confiscate the illegal pharmaceuticals.

"We suspect that these pharmaceuticals, usually containing sex stimulants and slimming agents, are being carried into the country by syndicates and to that end, we are in discussions with the Customs Department to implement a new procedure."

Right now, every parcel that arrives in the country by air, land or sea has to be declared through an invoice, under the Customs tariff.

Director-general of Customs Datuk Seri Khazali Ahmad, however, told the New Straits Times that parcels with a declared value of RM500 and below were not checked.

And the authorities believe syndicates are bringing in illegal pharmaceuticals in packages with declared values of less than RM500 so that they won't be checked.

Eisah said the pharmaceuticals brought in through these packages would be of little value.

"However, if 10 or more people bring the same amount in, this increases the value," she said.

"We would like Customs to start checking parcels with a declared value of RM500(S$200).

"We have held discussions with the department, which have been positive," said Eisah, adding that she believed the new policy would be implemented by year-end.

The new procedure comes on the back of Interpol's Operation Pangea with the ministry and the department.

Operation Pangea is Interpol's annual two-week exercise with Customs, health regulators, police forces and the private sector around the world to tackle the online sale of counterfeit and illicit medicines.

"Malaysia has been working with Interpol on Operation Pangea since last year," said Health Ministry Enforcement Division senior assistant director Mazlan Ismail.

"We've identified 96 websites selling unregulated pharmaceuticals under Pangea V from Sept 25 to Oct 3 last year.

"During the same period, we also confiscated 1,115 parcels, which were suspected of containing illegal substances. Of that number, we destroyed 67, valued at RM49,830," he said.

"For Pangea VI, which ran from June 18 to 26, we identified 131 websites and confiscated 888 parcels. Twenty-one of these parcels, worth RM76,600, were destroyed."

Operation Pangea was first run in 2008, with an initial participation of 10 countries.

The sixth edition of the operation this year, saw 99 countries participating and more than 41,000 websites identified and shut down.

A list of Malaysia-based websites that have been shut down for peddling unregulated pharmaceuticals can be viewed at the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau website:

A list of regulated pharmaceuticals can be viewed at the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau and Pharmacy Enforcement website: