Internet drug sale raids net £6.5m of medicines

A silhouette of a man using a laptop

A worldwide crack-down on the sale of fake and unlicensed medicines on the internet has netted £6.5m of drugs.

UK drug officials took part in a series of co-ordinated raids with Interpol and agencies from more than 100 different countries over the past nine days.

A total of 79 people have been arrested over the distribution of the "medicines" and tests carried out on the drugs seized.

In the UK, 10 different addresses were raided as part of Operation Pangea.

BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme accompanied the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the UK drugs regulator, on one of the raids in Kingston, Surrey.

Dozens of boxes of fake Viagra were seized, with names like Weekend Prince and Hard 10 Nights, along with Viagra only licensed for sale in India.

Danny Lee Frost, from the MHRA, said: "None of these products are approved for the UK market. Not only is it illegal to sell in the UK, but we can't guarantee it is safe to take. It is a form of drug dealing. People could be taking this over a long-term basis and doing themselves untold harm. We just don't know."

'Unhygienic conditions'

The latest research indicates half of all unsolicited emails are trying to sell medicines and nearly 900 orders are placed every day worldwide.

About 60% of the drugs dealt on the internet are male sexual stimulants, but there are also medicines for a range of problems such as cancer, thyroid and hair loss. It is estimated £1.5m of orders are placed globally every month.

The operations are often based in a single house processing orders on behalf of criminal gangs overseas.

Nimo Ahmed, acting head of enforcement at the MHRA, said: "We have these medicines which we found being supplied in very unhygienic conditions with dogs being kept in the area or in filthy bedrooms. And we have no idea of the conditions where these medicines were actually made."

"The vast majority of medicines come from East [Asia] or South East Asia, but it can be difficult to shut down the manufacturers.

"Often by the time you get the parcels in the UK, they have been through two or three different countries often through a free-trade zone. Then the previous paperwork is not required. Tracing it back becomes very difficult."

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