olice in Naples have busted a multi-million pound racket in which Italian fraudsters are said to have supplied illegally obtained pharmaceuticals to UK companies.

_Investigators said the culprits used bogus prescriptions to obtain a slew of state-subsidised drugs, from cancer medicines to Viagra (sildenafil), which they then sold to companies in Britain, at a large profit.
_The scam, centred on the southern provinces of Naples and Caserta, is estimated to have cost the Italian state several million euros.

A doctor, three pharmacists and a drug company representative were among 25 people arrested, with “five of them caught red-handed,” Italian news agencies have reported. Those arrested may be charged with fraud and illegal trafficking of medicines and the police also seized pharmaceuticals and prescriptions.

Italian authorities have not released the names of the UK companies that received the medicines on the “parallel market”. However, La Repubblica newspaper has reported investigators as saying that the owner of one UK pharmaceutical supplier was involved in the scam.

Andrea Mandelli, the president of Fofi (The Federation of Italian Pharmacists), said it was trying to seek as much information as possible about the events. He added that all his members found guilty of talking part in the scam would “automatically suspended from the profession”. “In other words,” he said, “delinquent behaviour is not acceptable.”

The scandal is the latest in a long line of scams that have hit the Italian medicines sector recently. Late last year it emerged that an Italian drugs supplier had bribed doctors and pharmacists to issue bogus prescriptions in return for cash and sex with Colombian prostitutes. Some 44 people, including medics, pharmacists and drugs supply staff across south and central Italy were held.

Also last year PharmaTimes reported how officials in Italy's medicines regulatory agency Aifa (the Italian Agency for Pharmaceuticals), and drugs company lobbyists had been arrested after police found evidence that money had changed hands in return for the falsification of clinical data required for drug licences. (rticle.aspx?id=13554).