Warning as £100k worth of illegal medicines seized in NI during global crackdown
Steroids, erectile dysfunction tablets and syringes of anti-wrinkle medication were among £100,000 worth of illegally imported and counterfeit medicines seized in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.
The haul included around 90,000 tablets and syringes destined for addresses across the region, but intercepted as part of a global operation.
Called Operation Pangea IX, it was coordinated through Interpol, and took place between May 30 and June 7, involving more than 100 countries.
It was aimed at disrupting the illicit online sale of medicines, as well as raising awareness of the significant health risks associated with buying medication from suspicious websites.
The substances seized here were estimated to be worth around £100,000 on the black market. Among the haul was 56,000 diazepam tablets, 23,000 pregabalin tablets and 2,000 tramadol tablets.
Globally, the operation saw more than 12 million potentially life-threatening medicines, worth an estimated £36.5m, seized by the authorities. On top of that, 4,932 websites identified as being engaged in illegal activity were shut down.
Approximately 334,000 packages were inspected by regulators and customs authorities, of which 170,340 were seized.
Health Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "This problem is not something we can tackle in isolation, and my department is committed to working with other agencies to stop the supply of illegal medicines over the internet.
"The truth is that this might very well save lives as, sadly, young people are often unaware of the potentially fatal consequences of taking these unprescribed drugs, particularly when taken with alcohol."
Professor Mike Mawhinney, head of the Medicines Regulatory Group at the Department of Health said that people should take only prescription medicines in consultation with their GP, pharmacist or other healthcare professionals who have access to patient health records.
Mr Mawhinney added: "We urge the public not to be tempted by what look like cut prices or fooled by professional-looking websites offering medicines without prescription."