Operation Stormgrand, the largest investigation into drug counterfeiting conducted in the UK, has come to an end following the sentencing of the last gang member at Kingston Crown Court last week.

Forty-two year old Alpesh Patel was found guilty of “masterminding an industrial scale conspiracy of supplying counterfeit medicines between 2002 and 2005,” which involved millions of pounds worth of fake versions of Pfizer and Eli Lilly's erectile dysfunction drugs Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadafil) and Merck & Co's baldness therapy Propecia (finasteride), and consequently was handed down a 12-month sentence - suspended for two years – by the judge.

According to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, Operation Stormgrand, which was launched back in 2005 and unravelled the largest ever scam of fake drugs in the country, has been a huge success, resulting in convictions totalling 17.5 years and confiscation orders of some £3,074,242.

The sentenced gang were operating as part of a global ring based in China, India and Pakistan, which also targeted the Caribbean and the USA, and the prosecutions should send “a clear signal to those contemplating supplying counterfeit medicines”, said MHRA Head of Enforcement, Mick Deats.

“We will continue to use every power at our disposal to prosecute those engaged in this illicit activity and confiscate the proceeds of their crimes,” he said, and again warned the public “to avoid buying medicines online where the risk of being provided with a counterfeit is greatly increased”.