UK regulators have seized a record haul of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines - worth a massive £12.2 million.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) just moments ago announced the find, the result of a week-long, globally co-ordinated crackdown on the illegal internet trade of medicines.
Operation Pangea VI has led to 58 worldwide arrests and the closure or suspension of 9,610 illegal online websites selling counterfeit and unlicensed medicines.
Internationally, early indications are that £26.8 million worth of fake or unapproved drugs were captured by regulators or customs officials.
In the UK, a raid on addresses by MHRA enforcement officers, Home Office UK Border Force and local police reaped more than 3.7 million doses of unlicensed medicines worth around £12.2 million, including 97,500 doses of fake pills worth £525,000.
Unsurprisingly, the nature of the illegal medicines found by regulators was lifestyle related, with products for slimming, hair loss and erectile dysfunction.
“We have closed down 1,288 of these illegal websites but people need to take the time to see their GP about any problems they have with their health," stressed MHRA’s Acting Head of Enforcement Nimo Ahmed. "People are far more likely to get better faster if they are on the correct course of safely prescribed medication.”
“It is hugely worrying that prescription medicines are available from illicit websites," said the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Neal Patel, adding: "This is a serious patient safety issue".
Licensed drugs, illegal sale
But elsewhere there is also growing concern over the illegal sale of prescription only medicines (POM) on the internet, on sites such as Ebay.
PJ Online has this week reported that medicines such as the IVF therapy Menopur (menotrophin), Cyclogest (progesterone), post-natal depression or pre-menstrual tension and the injectable ED treatment Cyclogest (progesterone) have all recently been listed for sale through the market place website.
The supply of POMs online is against the law unless the site is registered as a pharmacy. However, if the person or website selling the medicine is from outside of the UK then they are beyond the MHRA's remit.
And while eBay UK does remove medicinal products being offered for sale on its UK website, a significant number could still be slipping through the net.