Fake medicine warning after bogus drugs haul

The UK has seized more than £2 million of fake medicines and dermal fillers as part of an international crackdown

People in the UK are being warned to be very careful when buying medicines online and to avoid self-diagnosis and self-medication.

The caution comes from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) after more than 1 million doses of counterfeit medicine were seized as part of a fake drugs and medical devices haul worth over £2 million.

The contraband was seized as part of Interpol’s global Operation Pangea initiative involving 116  countries following a crackdown by the MHRA.

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Between 9 & 17 October, the MHRA and partners found falsified and unlicensed medicines and medical devices in the UK which included diazepam, modafinil and dermal fillers.

Using intelligence, MHRA enforcement officers raided a semi-detached property and a small lock-up unit in connection with the illegal supply online of potentially harmful medicines. This led to one arrest.

Raids on the properties in the north of England involved local police and forms part of an international response coordinated through Interpol to the growing illegal trading in online medicines and medical devices. Worldwide, Operation Pangea led to 859 arrests and yielded items worth in the region of £10.9 million.

As well as the property raids, the team also targeted airports and mail delivery centres. During the searches, officers found numerous packages containing illegal consignments of medicines and medical devices including many hidden within other innocent items such as  video games and clothing.

The team also targeted websites on the open and dark web that offer falsified and unlicensed medical products. Our action has led to 123 websites being shut down and the removal of 535 online adverts.

MHRA Head of Enforcement Alastair Jeffrey, said: “Criminals who sell medicines over the internet have absolutely no regard for your health and taking medicine which is either falsified or unlicensed puts you at risk of serious harm.

“Our intelligence-led enforcement operations have seized millions of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines and devices in the UK. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and we will continue to take action against known criminals – working with our international partners to stop illegal medicines from entering the UK.

“To protect your health, visit your GP, get a correct diagnosis and buy medicines from a legitimate high street or registered pharmacy which can trade online with a distance selling logo.”

The MHRA has issued the following safety advice when buying medicines:

Be careful when buying medicines online
Be careful buying medicines online – criminals are known to exploit vulnerable people by supplying medicines through unregulated websites and stealing their credit card details.

Do not self-prescribe
Self-diagnosis and self-medication can be very dangerous. If you have a concern about your health, visit your GP, get a correct diagnosis and if medicines are prescribed, buy them from a legitimate source.

Report it!
If you have any knowledge of criminal activity relating to the medicines offences, you should report this by emailing CaseReferrals@mhra.gov.uk.

To report a website, click here 

You can also provide information anonymously through 0800 555111 or Crimestoppers

Separately, the MHRA recently worked with law enforcement agencies in India to prevent unlicensed medicines entering the UK.

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Lynda Hamilton Parker is a Scottish PR expert and independent publisher

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