By John Isaac
SALES of illegal and unregistered medicines have increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic, said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
He said this was because demand from consumers for medical and pharmaceutical products were high at the moment, especially through online purchasing.
He said the Health Ministry received 38 complaints on the sale of pharmaceutical products which could allegedly cure Covid-19 throughout the Movement Control Order (MCO).
“This scenario (pandemic) has provided an opportunity for cyber criminals and scammers to take advantage of consumers.
“We identified and blocked 182 websites selling unregistered drugs for Covid-19 and issued 556 notices to e-marketplace platforms to curb the sale of unregistered medical products,” he said in a statement as reported in the New Straits Times.
He said the ministry also seized more than a million illegal health products worth RM2.55 million in an operation dubbed as Op Pangea XIII.
The operation which was carried out between March 3 to 10 also identified 347 personal websites, 360 social media accounts, and 585 e-marketplace links found selling unregistered drugs.
“A total 853 parcels were also inspected where 79 were seized as it contained unregistered pharmaceutical products,” he said, adding that among the top products were cosmetics and health product.
Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry also managed to seize 23,278 illegal pharmaceutical products worth more than RM600,000 during raids on 50 unlicensed premises.
He said Op Pangea XIII which had entered its eight edition this year, was mounted with the cooperation from his ministry, Customs Department, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, Pos Malaysia, and e-marketplace platform.
“The operation was coordinated by the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) with the police, customs, and health authorities from 90 countries.
“In this international operation, low quality masks and hand sanitisers; illegal antivirus; and dangerous drugs worth more than USD14 million were seized by the authorities.
“This year’s operation saw an approximate 18 per cent increase in unauthorised antivirus drug seizures, and more than 100 per cent increase in unauthorised hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine seizures, also associated with the Covid-19 outbreak,” he added.
He said combined efforts of the authorities around the world have also put an end to the activities of 37 organised crime groups.