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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Rogue net medicines ring 'bust'
The internet is described as "an open medicine cabinet"
An international drug smuggling ring that supplied pharmaceuticals over the internet without regulation has been broken up, officials say.

Up to 20 people have been arrested - mostly in the US and India - in an operation that spanned 15 countries.

The ring was based in India, from where drugs like codeine, steroids, and versions of Viagra were shipped abroad to order, US officials said.

"We've logged off some of the worst e-traffickers out there," said one.

Drug Enforcement Administrator Karen Tandy said there was a huge market in prescription drugs ordered and supplied over the internet without any checks on a buyer's age or medical need.

'Major blow'

"Today is every parent's nightmare," she said.

"The internet has become an open medicine cabinet. Strangers are peddling drugs in your home, and you don't even know it."

Officials described the latest operation as a major blow to rogue online pharmacies.

A grand jury indictment in Philadelphia charged that the main supply organisation was run by a doctor, Brij Bhushan Bansal, and his family, in Agra, India.

Officials alleged that the business met orders for millions of pills placed by more than 4,500 buyers around the world.

No control

They said many of the buyers resold the drugs in turn, either through websites or on the streets.

At least 14 people were arrested on Tuesday across the US and in India, the officials said.

Some reports said there were further arrests elsewhere, including in Costa Rica and Australia.

It is not clear where the drugs were manufactured, though US attorney Patrick Meehan said many were probably made by legitimate pharmaceutical companies.

However, "there was no physician, no pharmacist and no quality control of these drugs that were sold at above-market rates", he added.

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