UK seizure of £15.8 million worth of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines and devices

counterfeit drugsToday (18 June) The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced that a staggering haul of fake and unlicensed medicines and devices have been seized across Britain as part of an ongoing global operation.

The huge haul totals around £15.8 million and the seizures represent the biggest to be recorded in the UK. The types of drugs to be counterfeited include massive amounts of the usual suspects that are often imitated; erectile dysfunction and slimming pills, in addition to anaemia and narcolepsy tablets. Fake condoms and unlicensed foreign medicines were also seized.

The MHRA instigated the ‘Operation Pangea VIII’ initiative with INTERPOL, carrying out a series of worldwide drug raids during the week of 9 and 16 June, leading to 156 arrests in numerous different countries.

In news that comes as a delight to Medical Specialists®, after ourselves publishing several articles on how to spot an illegal website/fake ‘pharmacy’, Operation Pangea VIII also involved the shutting down of illicit websites that were duping customers with falsified, counterfeit and unlicensed medicines.  These websites were hit with a closure or suspension by removal of their domain name or payment facility.

Closer to home the MHRA enforcement officers joined forces with local police to conduct raids on known suspect addresses across Britain, addresses connected to the illegal online supply of potentially deadly medicines.

This led to a seizure of nearly 6.2 million doses of falsified, counterfeit and unlicensed medicines in the UK, 15,000 of which were found to be medical devices that had an estimated total value of £15.8 million. Thanks to UK operations, 1,380 websites were shut down, 339 being domestic sites.

MHRA Head of Enforcement, Alastair Jeffrey, said: “Operation Pangea is the global response to internet-facilitated medicines and devices crime. As a result of our intelligence-led enforcement operations we have seized £15.8 million worth of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines and 15,000 devices in the UK alone – which is almost twice as much as we recorded last year, and clear evidence that this is a growing concern that has to be taken seriously.

“Criminals involved in the illegal supply of medical products through the internet aren’t interested in your health – they are interested in your money and are able to get this by selling you a potentially dangerous product, or by stealing your bank details. 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.”

Most of the products seized in UK were imported from overseas, with India, China, Hong Kong and Singapore being the main countries in question.

With crooks always looking at new means to target potential customers, this has resulted in the MHRA investigating YouTube accounts and videos – leading to over 320 videos being taken off the site.

On a more global scale, regulators and custom officials analysed almost 150,000 packages and seized in excess of 20.7 million doses of unlicensed and counterfeit medicines, worth about £51.6 million.

Alex Lawther, from Border Force’s postal command, added: “Border Force regularly detects and seizes illegal and restricted products imported through the postal system including fake and unlicensed medicines. Our involvement in this operation with the MHRA demonstrates our commitment to combat this form of smuggling. Our message to the public is simple – don’t buy anything online unless you are certain it comes from a legitimate source.”

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