Medicinal products seized within the week running from the 23rd-30th June, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) seized 285,000 medicines and medical devices which were valued at almost £1,000,000. This occurred because of an operation coordinated by Interpol and 90 countries called Operation Pangea. It was carried out to tackle the illegal sale of medicines and medical devices which occurs on a global scale. The seizure carried out by the MHRA accounted for 9% of all the medicinal products seized globally during this operation.
Among the medicines that were confiscated during the operation were anti-depressants, erectile dysfunction tablets, painkillers, anabolic steroids and slimming pills. Also during this operation, 48 UK social media accounts were shut down. After monitoring and investigation, these social media accounts were observed to be unlawfully offering to supply medicines or medical devices.
During COVID-19, medicines and pharmaceutical wholesale was identified as the most vulnerable sector for criminal infiltration. This was likely due to the increased demand of medicines and pharmaceutical products which made their trade increasingly profitable for criminal groups. Restrictions put in place during the pandemic on public life and allowances made to legitimate wholesalers by the MHRA due to the extraordinary circumstances also made it so that criminal groups could evade detection more easily.
Following on from Operation Pangea, the MHRA will be detailing a list relating to illegal medicines activity. This list will include the ‘hotspot’ export countries, the most frequently sold illegal medicinal products and evolving business practices of illegal medicinal wholesalers. The MHRA raises awareness of falsified and illegal medicinal products through its #FakeMeds website https://fakemeds.campaign.gov.uk/.
The MHRA encourages the public to think carefully before buying medicines or medical products online. Many people may be completely unaware of the legal requirements of pharmaceutical wholesale and may not realise they are purchasing from an illegal supplier. Others may look to these suppliers if they have self-prescribed themselves medication or self-diagnosed a condition or illness. The MHRA warns that this behaviour is very dangerous and puts your health at risk.
Over 285,000 medicines and medical devices seized UK-wide in global action
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