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Officers from the MHRA have seized large quantities of illegally traded medicines and medical devices in an Interpol week of action known as “Operation Pangea”
Medicines and medical devices valued at over £850,000, totalling more than 285,000 items, have been seized by officers from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as part of a global operation to tackle the illegal sale of medical products, with UK seizures estimated to be worth around 9 per cent of the global total.
In the UK, 48 social media accounts unlawfully offering to supply medicines were also shut down. Officers from the MHRA Criminal Enforcement Unit searched five premises in the West Midlands and London, with 2 suspects arrested.
During the global week of action coordinated by Interpol, which ran from 23 to 30 June, this year’s ‘Operation Pangea’ saw countries across the world joining forces to seize non-compliant medical products. The operation also involved the arrests of several suspected organised criminals.
In the UK, anti-depressants, erectile dysfunction tablets, painkillers, anabolic steroids and slimming pills were among the medicines seized.
Andy Morling, Deputy Director (Criminal Enforcement) at the MHRA, said:
Criminals illegally trading in medicines and medical devices are not only breaking the law but they also have no regard for your health. Unlicensed medicines and non-compliant medical devices pose serious risk to public health as both their safety and efficacy can be compromised.
This operation shows what can be achieved when national and global efforts combine to tackle this kind of offending. The MHRA’s Criminal Enforcement Unit will continue to work closely with our international partners and Border Force to prevent unlicensed medicines and non-compliant medical devices from entering the UK, and to bring the criminals behind this illegal trade to justice.
The MHRA will be following the week of action with a detailed analysis of the global results to better understand the current and emerging criminal threat. This work includes the identification of ‘hotspot’ exporting countries, favoured high-risk medicines being traded on informal markets, and the ever-evolving business models of criminals worldwide seeking to take advantage of the public.
The MHRA works to raise awareness though its #FakeMeds website which encourages people in the UK who choose to buy medication online to take steps to make sure they are purchasing from safe and legitimate sources. The campaign highlights the dangers of fake medicines sold online and the negative health effects that taking them can have. It also encourages people to report suspicious offers and any side effects experienced to the Yellow Card scheme.
MHRA safety advice when buying medicines:
Be careful when buying medicines online.
Medicines and medical devices are not ordinary consumer goods and their sale and supply are tightly controlled. Websites operating outside the legal supply chain may seem tempting, for example, a prescription medicine offered without a prescription. Not only are these sites breaking the law – they are also putting your health at risk.
Do not self-prescribe.
Self-diagnosis and self-medication can be very dangerous. If you have a concern about your health, visit your GP, get a correct diagnosis and if medicines are prescribed, buy them from a legitimate source.
Visit the #FakeMeds website for tools and resources to help people purchase medication or medical devices safely online.
Notes to editors
Operation Pangea is an international initiative to target the illegal internet trade in medical products. It was instigated by the MHRA in April 2006 and started as the UK Internet Day of Action (IDA). The annual operation is now the largest internet-based enforcement action of its kind and is coordinated by INTERPOL, together with the World Customs Organisation (WCO), the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC), the Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers (WGEO), Europol and the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI), and supported by the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) and private sector companies.
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