The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency have teamed up to raise public awareness of the dangers of counterfeit medicines.

The agencies have worked with patient groups to produce “easy-to-read” guidance that patients will receive along with their prescriptions when they visit a pharmacy. The postcard-sized leaflet has been designed to provide patients with “practical advice” on how best to purchase safe medicines, as well as warn of “the dangers of faking it”, the groups said.

“It’s important that people are aware that they should always get their medicine from a reputable source such as a pharmacist or a registered online pharmacy site which has the RPSGB’s Internet Pharmacy Logo – and I hope these postcards will help to achieve that,” commented Heidi Wright, Head of Practice at the RPSGB.

The move represents another strategy in a unified effort to combat the growing stream of fake medicines infiltrating supply chains around the globe.

Towards the end of last year, EU customs officials reported they had seized 43 million fake drugs in just two months following the first coordinated action by customs controls throughout the 27 member states, and recent research revealed that more than 330,000 men alone purchase prescription drugs from unregulated sources - such as the Internet - every year in the UK.

Attractive market
The problem is certainly on the rise around the globe, but the UK offers a particularly attractive and potentially lucrative destination for counterfeiters, largely because of high drug prices, a sizeable market, extensive Internet connectivity and a complex supply chain in the country.

Just this month the MHRA enforcement team seized more than £250,000 worth of phoney drugs in a series of early-morning raids in Stoke-on-Trent.

Head of Operations Danny Lee-Frost said the stash was “just the tip of the ice-berg” in what is thought to be a major - potentially multi-million-pound - illegal online pharmacy, supplying patients around the country with “a massive range of medicines from weight and hair loss tablets, to anti-depressants, powerful painkillers and even anabolic steroids”, further highlighting the urgent need to raise awareness of the potential dangers.