January 15th 2015
The scale of the problem of websites illegally advertising and selling medicines has been demonstrated with the release of statistics by the industry's UK regulatory body.
In 2014, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) took action to close down more than 1,600 websites selling the medicines, many of which were falsified, counterfeit or unlicensed.
Enforcement officers also seized medicines with a value in excess of £3 million. These included quantities of erectile dysfunction medicines, slimming products, as well as powerful and often misused drugs like sleeping pills and antidepressants. The majority of packages seized originated in India and China.
Additionally, within the last year nearly 19,000 online videos were removed for illegally advertising medicines as part of MHRA’s continuing collaboration with social media and auction sites such as YouTube, Amazon and eBay to identify and take action against illegal operators.
The MHRA also continues to work with internet domain registries, credit card companies and Interpol to take down websites and close their accounts.
Alastair Jeffrey, the body's Head of Enforcement, said:
“The action we have taken to close down websites and seize medicines demonstrates our total commitment to tacking this dangerous and illegal trade and protect patients. Criminals involved in the supply of medicines have no interest in your health; it is simply your money they want."
Mr Jeffrey continued: “Buying medicines online is a risk, may websites operate outside the legal requirements and you have no idea what you are getting and how it will affect you. You are gambling with your health. If you are ill and need treatment, a visit to your GP is the best course of action. We recommend prescription and pharmacy medicines are obtained from a legitimate high street or online pharmacy.”