Press Release

RPS speaks out about counterfeit medicines

RPS spokesperson Neal Patel spoke to BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours yesterday following a week-long international crackdown on the illicit internet trade in pharmaceuticals with more than £6.5million worth of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines being seized. The story was also covered in The Daily Telegraph and The Independent online.

Operation Pangea V, co-ordinated by INTERPOL, ran between 25 September and 2 October and resulted in 79 people being arrested worldwide. It also saw approximately 18,000 illegal online pharmacy websites being shut down through domain name or payment facility removal. The operation is the largest internet-targeting enforcement action of its kind with 100 countries participating in this year’s event.

Internationally, preliminary results show that more than 133,000 packages were inspected by regulators and customs officials resulting in the seizure of over 3.7 million doses of unlicensed and counterfeit pills.

In the United Kingdom, enforcement officers from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), with assistance from local police, arrested two people and raided 10 addresses in connection with the illegal internet supply of medicines. Additionally, eight computers were seized as well as financial correspondence.

In conjunction with the Border Force, the MHRA seized more than 2.3 million doses of unlicensed medicine worth approximately £3.8 million, including 68,000 doses of counterfeit pills.

The MHRA is also working with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Central eCrime Unit (PCeU) and international partners to tackle spam emails received by people advertising unlicensed and counterfeit medicines.

MHRA Acting Head of Enforcement, Nimo Ahmed, said: “This week we have recovered a range of medicines being supplied without prescriptions and stored in unacceptable conditions by people who are not qualified to dispense medicines.

“When you buy medicines from an unregulated source you don’t know what you’re getting, where it came from or if it’s safe to take. The dose could be too high or too low, or the ingredients could break down incorrectly in the body which makes the medicine ineffective.

“Illegal suppliers do not adhere to quality control or standards that are required in the licensed trade. If people could see the filthy conditions some of these medicines are being made, stored and transported in, they certainly wouldn’t touch them.

“The bottom line is that there are no quick fixes when it comes to your health. Take the time to see your GP to identify the cause of your symptoms. You are far more likely to get better faster if you are on the correct course of prescribed medication.”

RPS spokesperson, Neal Patel said: “It is hugely worrying that prescription medicines are available from illicit websites. This is a serious patient safety issue.

“Not only is supplying prescription only medicines without a prescription illegal, it means that the user has no information about the ingredients, dosage instructions, or potential side effects, so patients would not be receiving proper healthcare advice.

“We would urge the public if they wish to buy medicines online to always check that they are dealing with a genuine pharmacy.”

Notes to editors:

For more information contact the MHRA press office on 020 3080 7651 or the RPS media team on 020 7572 2272.