Millions of medicines seized in largest operation against the trafficking of misused medicines

21 December 2017
Press Release
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This News/Press release is about Intellectual property crime

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In the largest action of its kind, Operation MISMED targeting the illicit trafficking of misused medicines saw some 100 arrests in and the seizure of more than EUR 230 million worth of medicines and doping substances in the EU.

In a series of coordinated actions carried out throughout 2017, the French Central Office against Environmental and Public Health Crime (OCLAESP) and the Finnish Customs led an operation targeting medicines diverted for psychotropic, recreational or doping purposes under the umbrella of Europol’s Intellectual Property Crime Coordination Centre (IPC3).

Overall, involving customs, law enforcement and health regulatory authorities from France, Finland, Spain, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Greece, the UK and Ireland, Operation MISMED led to a record number of 75 million units of medicine and doping substances seized, with an estimated street value of over EUR 230 million.

The series of coordinated action resulted in the launch of 205 investigations and the identification of 277 suspects, of which 111 were arrested.

This intelligence-led operation was initiated in 2017 after the initial investigation revealed that the medicine ‘Subutex’ was being illicitly trafficked between France and Finland.

Misuse of medicines

Concerns have been growing in many European countries about increasing misuse of medicines, particularly in the light of large increases in deaths from prescription opioid analgesics in the United States. The misuse of medicines is a serious and growing problem that needs to be tackled at the European level. Organised crime groups are increasingly turning to this crime area as it provides very high profits for perpetrators and relatively low risks of detection.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the groups of medications that have been associated with misuse include:

  • Sedatives and hypnotics;
  • Opioids, including pain relief medication and opioid substation treatment;
  • Stimulants prescribed to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.

These medicines may be obtained by regular prescribing, doctor shopping or visits to multiple pharmacies, diversion of supplies onto the illicit market and internet purchases.