The illegal online sale of medical devices and medicines is being tackled by The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The MHRA took part in the annual global coordinated operation which identified a very worrying problem with criminals who are taking advantage of the Coronavirus outbreak by exploiting the demand for hygiene products and personal protection.
The operation called Pangea XIII took place from 3-10 March and involved customs and health regulatory authorities and police from 90 countries. Their common goal was to prevent illicit online sales of medicinal products and medicines. Unauthorized antiviral medication and counterfeit face masks were seized under this operation.
Around the world, over 2000 online adverts related to COVID-19 were discovered and more than 34000 fake and unlicensed medical products were seized. On this occasion, no Coronavirus products were found to have had reached UK borders but Operation Pangea will continue to tackle organized crime globally. The MHRA will play a big role to ensure that unlicensed medical devices and medicines do not reach the UK market.
The MHRA team along with colleagues from UK Border force discovered unlicensed medicines valued at £2.6m, and also removed 1031 social media advert and took down 294 websites all promoting and selling illegal products and medicines.
Some of the fake/illegal medicines that were seized by the MHRA and UK Border Force included weight loss tablets, anti-depressants, anabolic steroids and painkillers. These seizures formed part of Interpol’s global Operation Pangea to target any illegal online sales of devices and medicines.
Mark Jackson, Head of Enforcement at the MHRA, said:
“Criminals who sell medicines and devices illegally are not only breaking the law but have no regard for your health and will take advantage of a major public health crisis to make a profit. Taking fake or unlicensed medicines and using a non-compliant medical device could put your health and safety in danger and may lead to serious health issues.
“Our intelligence-led operations across the UK have seized millions of fake and unlicensed medicines. The MHRA is committed to working with our international partners and UK Border Force to prevent fake medicines from entering the UK and to identify illicit websites offering to sell and supply medicines and medical devices illegally.”
The MHRA has a campaign called #FakeMeds and encourages people to make sure they are buying from legitimate and safe sources when choosing to shop online. The campaign also shines a light on the dangers of fake medicines and the negative side effects they cause. People are encouraged to report any drugs that are suspected to be harmful or fake to the Yellow Card scheme.
Some of the MHRA’s safety advice and guidelines include the following:
- Be very cautious when buying medicines online. If you can buy prescription medicine without a prescription- the product is either illegal or fake and can be very harmful to your health.
- Do not self-prescribe as this can be very dangerous. Visit your GP if you have health concerns, and if he prescribes medication purchase it from a reliable source.
People are encouraged to visit the #FakeMeds website to access resources and tools to safely purchase medical devices or medicine online.