MHRA conducts biggest operation to date – seizes almost £16m of products

Posted: June 18, 2015

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has announced that £15.8 million worth of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines, including erectile dysfunction tablets and fake condoms, have been seized in the regulatory body’s biggest recorded UK operation so far.

The seizures were the result of a month-long international crackdown on the illegal internet trade of medical products that yielded £51.6 million worth of items from 115 different countries globally. The ‘Operation Pangea VIII’ initiative, coordinated through INTERPOL, concluded with a week of international raids between 9th and 16th June that resulted in 156 arrests worldwide.

The operation also targeted websites that were offering falsified, counterfeit and unlicensed medicines and led to their closure or suspension by removal of their domain name or payment facility. 1,380 websites were closed down, 339 of which were 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.”

The majority of the products seized in the UK originated from India, China, Hong Kong and Singapore. The MHRA says it has continued to target YouTube accounts and videos as criminals seek to exploit new channels to profit from the illegal sale of medicines – resulting in the removal of more than 320 videos.

Internationally, results show that almost 150,000 packages were inspected by regulators and customs officials, resulting in the seizure of over 20.7 million doses of unlicensed and counterfeit medicines worth approximately £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.”

If someone suspects their medicine may be counterfeit, contact the MHRA’s 24-hour anti-counterfeiting hotline on 020 3080 6701 or email counterfeit@mhra.gsi.gov.uk

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