Drug sweep probably included some prescriptions

Expats who want to bring medicines from their home country have a tough time when the pills are not listed with the Ministerio de Salud.

More than one has complained via email that their important drug shipment was left immersed in paperwork and bureaucracy at the post office or a mail courier service.

Expats learn quickly that in order to import medicines that are not already listed and approved by the health ministry enormous effort is required. Basically they have to go through the same steps as a drug manufacturer, something that is impossible for the average expat.

The best way, they find, is to bring quantities of drugs from home or have a friend mule them in.

There is a good chance that some of these expats and their friends got caught up the latest sweep by the local office of the International Police Organization.

The local Interpol office is based at the Judicial Investigating Organization building downtown.

Along with colleagues in 115 countries, the agents spent five days this month discovering and confiscating illegal drugs and those that were not registered with the ministry.

Other agencies were involved, too, including the Policía Aeroportuaria, Policía Municipal, Fuerza Pública and the Policía de Fronteras.

Agents also checked out 12 retail drug sales locations. In all they confiscated  23,908 packages or bottles of medicines. The agency said the retail value of these products is $1.65 million.

Among the places where confiscations were made was Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela and at both borders, the judicial agency said.

The International Police Agency, headquartered in Lyon, France, characterized the sweep as more a search for online sales of medicines and medical devices. Worldwide there were 156 arrests.

This was the eight such sweep since 2008. Interpol in France also said that it efforts resulted in 2,414 Web sites being taken offline. The summary of the worldwide sweep also said that two sites that sold the lethal and illicit diet drug 2.4-dinitrophenol were taken offline. A woman died in Britain from that drug, the agency said.

Many private organizations assisted in the sweep, including Google and Pay Pal, said Interpol.

The Ministerio de Hacienda has a strong interest in these sweeps because it seeks sales tax on the imported items.

Costa Rica maintains an inter-institutional agency to fight fake and unlicensed drugs. It is the  Comisión Nacional contra Productos Ilícitos y Falsificados, which coordinated the latest sweep.

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