A French and Finnish-led operation supported by more than a dozen other countries has resulted in the arrest of 165 people and the seizure of 8 million euros worth of illegal medicines, Europol has reported.
According to French Gendarmerie and Finnish customs, the operation, called Mismed, was aimed at ending the trafficking of counterfeit drugs or misuse of real drugs for psychotropic, recreational or doping purposes. Approximately 36 million medicines were seized, with a total value of 7.9 million euros.
These included pseudoephedrine, anti-cancer drugs, antihistamines, anxiolytics, erectile dysfunction medicines, hormone and metabolic regulators, narcotics, painkillers, antioestrogens, antivirals, hypnotics, and doping substances.
In addition, 1.5 million euros in criminal assets were confiscated.
The coordinated actions marked the third such swoop on illegal medicine dealers under the Mismed campaign (‘Misused Medicines’) over the last three years. In total these operations have resulted in the seizure of 123 million units of illegal medicines and doping substances worth €0.5 billion, 600 arrests and the breaking up of 49 organised crime groups, according to Europol figures.
The European police force added that the campaign has highlighted the rise in trafficking in the EU of oncologic medicines stolen from hospitals, while Asia remains the main source region for both medicines and doping products.
The medicines are entering the black market either by being diverted from the legal supply chain by wholesalers and resold to criminal groups or being illegally obtained with forged or stolen medical prescriptions, sometimes with the help of doctors and pharmacists.
Counterfeit medicines and doping substances are being produced illegally and packed in underground laboratories often in the EU, Europol said, while doping products are mainly sold online.