The Jakarta Post
With the Internet now a hotbed for illegal and counterfeit drug sales, the Food and Drugs Monitoring Agency (BPOM) is moving its campaign online.
Antonia Retno Tyas Utami, deputy of the narcotic and therapeutic drug monitoring division at BPOM, said on Tuesday that the agency had formed a special task force to handle the problem.
The agency had also joined the global Operation Pangea coordinated by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to combat counterfeit drugs, particularly those marketed online. 'We combat illegal and fake drugs because they threaten the health of our people. We will continue to crack down on their sale,' she told reporters.
Retno said that the Internet had become a major marketplace for illegal and counterfeit drug sellers as more and more people in the country went online.
She also said that monitoring the activity of Internet users was very complicated. 'People can easily create web pages on the Internet. When we shut pages down, they can make another one with just one click of a button,' she said.
Retno said that BPOM had been working with the National Police and the Communication and Information Technology Ministry (Kemenkominfo) since its participation in the 2011 Operation Pangea IV.
In the recent Operation Pangea VI in six major provinces, the agency found 129 websites and 20 stores selling or producing 721 types of counterfeit drugs worth Rp 5.59 billion (US$485,184).
Data from the agency shows that the number of counterfeit drugs marketed in the country has steadily been increasing. In its operation last year in two provinces, the agency found 83 websites and four stores selling or producing 66 types of fake drugs worth Rp 150 million. The agency found 30 websites and four stores selling 57 types of counterfeit drugs worth Rp 82 million in 2011.
Kemenkominfo spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto said that the ministry had worked with BPOM to shut down web sites marketing counterfeit drugs.
'I have not checked whether all the 129 websites have been blocked, but I can assure the public that we are responding to BPOM's requests.'
Retno said that besides joining Interpol's Operation Pangea, BPOM would also bring the issue to the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bali in October.
Online sales of counterfeit medicine has been a global concern since the first Operation Pangea in 2008 pioneered by several developed countries, including the US, UK, Australia and Canada. The annual operation has steadily attracted more participation, including from developing countries. In Operation Pangea VI, 99 countries successfully shut down more than 13,000 websites and confiscated 10.1 million illicit and fake pills worth$36 million.
Retno said that most counterfeit drugs found in Indonesia were in the form of lifestyle drugs, such as erectile dysfunction drugs, slimming pills, and vitamin C serum. She cited some of the counterfeited brands as Viagra, Cialis, and Laroscorbine. (koi)
Websites selling illegal and counterfeit drugs
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