$9.8m worth of fake, illegal medicine seized in major op

Singapore was among 13 Asian countries that participated in a multinational operation led by Interpol which seized more than $9.8 million worth of fake and illegal medicine. The month-long Operation Storm VI saw the arrest of 87 individuals and the investigation of nearly 500 pharmacies and markets, as well as some 100 illicit online pharmacy websites, Interpol announced yesterday.

As part of the operation in Singapore, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) seized more than 200,000 units of adulterated and fake sexual enhancement drugs, with a street value of more than $500,000.

September's operation brought together law enforcement and drug regulatory agencies to target organised pharmaceutical crime across Asia. In total, it recovered more than two tonnes of medicine worth about US$7 million (S$9.8 million), including antibiotics, anti-hypertension medication, and erectile dysfunction and diet pills. The Philippines National Police seized 300 units of fake rabies vaccines.

Interpol Global Health and Safety Unit head Aline Plancon said: "Operation Storm VI demonstrated the sophistication and determination of criminal groups engaged in pharmaceutical crime, creating dangers to public health and the safety of the population. There is therefore a need for increased co-operation and information sharing on crimes related to falsified and illicit medical products being manufactured, transported and sold in the Asian region."

An HSA spokesman said: "Consumers should be wary when buying health products online as they may be illegal, counterfeit or substandard, and may contain undeclared ingredients which can harm your health."

The sixth Operation Storm involved the largest number of countries to date. Other participating countries included Cambodia, China and Indonesia, as well as new additions Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The first Operation Storm took place in 2008 across eight countries, resulting in 27 arrests and the seizure of products worth nearly $9.4 million.

This article was first published on Dec 23, 2015.
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