Canadian border officials and police warn that organized crime is threatening the health of those who have purchased counterfeit prescriptions through the mail.

Officials say they've seized thousands of fake prescription pills worth more than $1 million as part of an international operation targeting criminal groups.

RCMP Sgt. Duncan Pound says the operation, which ran from Sept. 25 to Oct. 2, was co-ordinated by Interpol and spanned 100 countries.

"What we're dealing with specifically is a group that's capable of producing in high volume and then they have a distribution method so they have a method to try and get into Canada. One of the means obviously is to try to disguise it as other items in the mail," said Pound.

He says the fake medications sent by mail included anti-depressants, sedatives, prescription weight-loss products, heart medications, hormone-replacement therapies, and erectile dysfunction drugs.

"A lot of them come from China, are manufactured in China but there are other countries they come through or also are manufactured in them," said Chief Heather Ardiel, of the Canada Border Services Agency. "You know we can essentially see these being mailed from anywhere in the world." 

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CBSA Chief Heather Ardiel and RCMP Sgt. Duncan Pound met with reporters in Vancouver Thursday. (CBC)

Most of the drugs are purchased through companies selling pharmaceuticals over the internet.

In the past six months, 2,600 illicit drug packages were intercepted in Vancouver alone.

Police say a 58-year-old B.C. man was caught with 6,000 counterfeit erectile dysfunction medications and they've recommended charges to Crown counsel.

Not only are consumers' identities vulnerable through credit card fraud, but a CBSA official says people put their health and even their lives at risk by taking non-prescribed medications.

 

With files from The Canadian Press and the CBC's Belle Puri