Global sweep nabs 237 counterfeiting suspects

It is that time of year again when Interpol and regulators from around the world round up counterfeiters, seize fakes and shut down as many websites as they possibly can.

This year's haul? Citing the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the U.K., Reuters says authorities recovered drugs worth £18.6 million pounds ($31.4 million), arrested 237 people worldwide and were able to close down 10,603 websites. The crackdown was overseen by the international law enforcement agency Interpol and went on for 10 days, concluding Wednesday.

The MHRA said that 72% of the fakes it confiscated in the U.K. had originated in India and 11% in China, two countries regulators often find issue with. "The medicines recovered during these raids were being held in appalling conditions, such as a dirty old building with broken windows, with medicines lying on the floor in bin bags," MHRA Head of Enforcement Alastair Jeffrey said in a statement. "Criminals involved in the illegal supply of medicines through the internet aren't interested in your health; they are interested in your money."

Authorities pull off the global event at least once a year, and while it does not stop the manufacturing and sales of fakes, it reminds counterfeiters around the world that they are being watched and may be arrested. Authorities in Europe are currently investigating organized crime rings centered in Italy that have been stealing cancer drugs vials from hospitals and using them to sell fakes in the EU.

The FDA this year said it is stepping up its efforts by assigning an agent from its Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) to Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency in The Netherlands.

- read the Reuters story