The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has announced the closing down or suspension of over 9,500 illegal online websites selling counterfeit and unlicensed medicines.
The closure of the websites – via domain name or payment facility removal – accompanies the seizure of a record £12.2 million of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines in the UK as part of a week-long international crackdown on the illegal internet trade, which seized over £26.8 million globally. Operation Pangea VI, conducted between 18 June and 25 June, also resulted in the arrest of 58 people worldwide.
Coordinated by INTERPOL and carried out by 99 countries, the operation targeted the three main elements misused in the illegal medicines website trade – the internet infrastructure, the electronic payment system and the
mail delivery service. More than 522,000 packages are thought to have been inspected by regulators and customs officials, resulting in the seizure of over £9.9 million doses of unlicensed and counterfeit medicines. Here in the UK, MHRA, officers, assisted by the Home Office UK Border Force and local police, raided addresses in connection with the illegal internet supply of medicines. Mor than 3.7 million does of unlicensed medicines including 97,500 doses of counterfeit pills were seized. These were claimed to be for sliming, hair loss and erectile dysfunction.
Acting Head of Enforcement for the MHRA, Nimo Ahmed, said: “During one week we have seized £12.2 million worth of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines. These were being stored in unacceptable conditions and supplied through
illegal internet websites without prescriptions by people who are not qualified to dispense medicines. When people buy medicines from an illegal website they don’t know what they’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. They could also become victims of credit card or identity fraud as well as downloading computer viruses." Mr Ahmed added “We have closed down 1288 of these illegal websites but people need to take the time to see their GP about any problems they have with their health. People are far more likely to get better faster if they are on the correct course of safely prescribed medication.”
A Home Office UK Border force spokesman said: “The work carried out by Border Force officers as part of this joint operation makes clear just how seriously we take the smuggling of fake and unlicensed medicines. Smugglers are only out to make a profit. These goods are often dangerous and the proceeds can be used to fund serious organised crime.”
18,000 illegal pharmacy websites were also shut down last year through domain name or payment facility removal.
If someone suspects their medicine may be counterfeit, contact the MHRA’s designated 24-hour anti-counterfeiting hotline on 020 3080 6701 or [email protected]