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Operation Apothecary

July 26, 2011

Quick Facts:

Purpose: To combat pharmaceutical smuggling by:

  • detecting border entry vulnerabilities;
  • dismantling illegal domestic and foreign producers and distributors; and
  • seizing and forfeiting shipments of illegal pharmaceutical imports

Start: FY 2004

End: Ongoing

Agency Involvement: ICE‐HSI, CBP, FDA‐OCI, USPIS

The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is leading the government’sresponse to intellectual property theft (IP theft), a crime that costs American industries lost revenue and jobsevery year. Operation Apothecary (Apothecary) targets unapproved, counterfeit, or adulteratedpharmaceuticals.

Apothecary was initiated in fiscal year (FY) 2004 under the auspices ofOperation Guardian to combat the growing problem of Internet crime. Particularemphasis is placed on the use of the Internet as the primary means ofcommunication and ordering of pharmaceuticals. Criminals, posing as legitimatepharmaceutical providers, advertise prescription grade drugs and/or inexpensivealternatives without requiring a valid prescription. The consumer purchases thepharmaceutical with the belief that the product advertised is a legitimate product,but in fact, is often purchasing a counterfeit or unapproved version of the drugthat has often been manufactured in unsanitary conditions or not subjected toany safeguards or quality control regimes.

Apothecary provides for a two-pronged attack on pharmaceutical smuggling:detecting violations at the border; and providing opportunities for investigationsand enforcement actions against traffickers of counterfeit drugs and medicaldevices. Apothecary specifically measures and attacks vulnerabilities in theentry process, which allow for the smuggling of commercial quantities ofunapproved, counterfeit, or adulterated pharmaceuticals. Apothecary seeks toidentify and dismantle domestic organizations that illegally import and/ordistribute pharmaceutical and scheduled drugs in the U.S. In addition,Apothecary identifies and dismantles foreign organizations that sell and shippharmaceuticals that are illegally imported into the U.S. Lastly, Apothecarydetects, seizes, and forfeits commercial shipments of illegally importedpharmaceuticals.

Apothecary combines the expertise of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and consists of mailsurge operations conducted at International Mail Branches, International Courier Hubs and ports of entrythroughout the United States. In addition, HSI field offices in conjunction with Operation Guardian memberagencies, conduct surge operations in an attempt to secure new intelligence, investigative leads, and/or assesthe deterrent effect of prior surges.

For more information about the IPR Center’s Operation Apothecary, please contact the Outreach & TrainingUnit by phone at 1-866-IPR-2060, by email at IPRCenter@dhs.gov, or by U.S. mail at National IPRCoordination Center, 2451 Crystal Drive Stop 5105, Arlington, VA 20598-5105 attn: Outreach & TrainingUnit Chief.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 06/03/2014