International fake pharmaceutical network broken up in Barcelona

The Catalan police uncovered a laboratory with over 200,000 pills whose active ingredient provokes a serious health risk.

Mireia Sánchez

June 16, 2010 04:54 AM

The Catalan police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, have dismantled part of an international network that was selling false medical products through the Internet. The investigation started three months ago, when a pharmaceutical laboratory reported that U.S. citizens who had bought the products on the Internet received their false documentation from Barcelona. These products simulate the original medicines but by altering their active ingredients, provoking a serious health risk. The Catalan police have arrested two suspects in charge of running a laboratory with more than 200,000 fake pills and chemicals worth more than 300,000 euros.
The modus operandi of the organization was to falsify the institutional hallmarks of the virtual pharmacies and apply safe online methods of payment. While the medicines were described as generic drugs, the Catalan police assure that these products are being distributed by clandestine companies without any public health inspection. Distribution points were set up in different European cities, where huge amounts of false medical products arrived. At these distribution points, workers received a distribution list, prepared the deliveries and sent the products on to their customers.

From the 4th to the 6th of June, the Catalan police uncovered a distribution point that sent medication to the United States, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Great Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Spain. The network established itself in Barcelona in July 2007, ten days after the German police broke down another distribution point in Winnenden (Baden-Württemberg). When the police raid was made, the organization was already in negotiations to move their Barcelona distribution operation to Paris.

The police alerted that these fake medical products involve a serious risk to consumers' health which could provoke possible cardiovascular complications. The products contain an active ingredient called sibutramine that has already been taken off the market. At the Barcelona apartment where the raid was made, the Catalan police confiscated more than 200,000 pills containing sibutramine with a market value of 300,000 euros. They also confiscated fake varieties of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra. According to the police, the distribution point in Barcelona made about 4,000 deliveries per year.

The police operation has led to the arrest of two gang members: Abraham E., a 47 year-old resident of France, and Jeoffery Syed T., a 39 year-old resident of Barcelona. However, the investigation remains open and there could be further detentions.