Authorities from 8 European Union countries, backed by Europol and Eurojust, have arrested a dozen suspects and seized more than €10 million worth of counterfeit drugs, mostly fakes of erectile dysfunction drugs that an organized crime group was selling online. The raid, announced Monday, came after an investigation that lasted nearly two years.
According to Europol, law enforcement folks from Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom conducted simultaneous raids. They were backed up by Europol and Eurojust. In addition to seizing several million pills, which it estimated were worth well in excess of €10 million, the agents seized cash and luxury cars and froze bank accounts that contained €7.5 million.
The investigation originated in Spain, which was able to provide information for probes in Austria, France and the U.K., Europol said in a statement. It said the fakes originated in Asia, home to many of the counterfeit drug operations.
While erectile dysfunction drugs have long been a target of counterfeiters selling online, Europe is also seeing organized crime move into stealing and faking high-priced drugs, like cancer meds. Authorities this spring warned that vials of Roche's ($RHHBY) cancer med Herceptin that had been stolen in Italy were showing up across the continent with little or none of its active ingredient.
Because some of the organized crime rings behind counterfeits are based in Europe, the FDA has assigned one of its criminal investigation officers to Europol in The Netherlands. The FDA estimates that 40,000 to 60,000 domain names could be tied to illegal online pharmacies at any given time, and that this number is in a constant state of flux.
- here's the Europol release