£6.5 million worth of drugs have been seized and 79 people arrested in a worldwide crackdown on the sale of fake and unlicensed medicines being sold on the internet.
Over the last nine days, UK drug officials in co-operation with Interpol and agencies from more than 100 different countries have taken part in Operation Pangea, which included raids on 10 UK addresses.
One of the raids in Kingston, Surrey by the UK drugs regulator Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) netted dozens of boxes of fake Viagra with names like Weekend Prince and Hard 10 Nights, along with Viagra licensed for sale only in India.
MHRA spokesperson Danny Lee Frost said: "None of these products are approved for the UK market. Not only is it illegal to sell in the UK, but we can't guarantee it is safe to take. It is a form of drug dealing. People could be taking this over a long-term basis and doing themselves untold harm. We just don't know."
Research indicates that half of all unsolicited emails are trying to sell medicines and nearly 900 orders are placed every day worldwide. About 60% of the drugs dealt on the internet are male sexual stimulants, but medicines also purport to treat a range of problems such as cancer, thyroid and hair loss. It is estimated £1.5m of orders are placed globally every month.
The operations are often based in a single house processing orders on behalf of criminal gangs overseas.
Nimo Ahmed, Acting Head of Enforcement at the MHRA, said: "We have these medicines which we found being supplied in very unhygienic conditions with dogs being kept in the area or in filthy bedrooms. And we have no idea of the conditions where these medicines were actually made." He added "The vast majority of medicines come from East or South East Asia, but it can be difficult to shut down the Often by the time you get the parcels in the UK, they have been through two or three different countries often through a free-trade zone. Then the previous paperwork is not required. Tracing it back becomes very difficult."