Probe launched on stolen Italian drugs in UK supply chain

Medicines that were stolen from hospitals in Italy entered the UK supply chain and may have been prescribed to patients, says a new report.

An investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme suggests that criminal gangs with links to organised crime carried out a series of thefts in Italy between 2011 and 2014, and successfully introduced some 10,000 stolen cancer, epilepsy and schizophrenia medicines into the UK supply chain.

While not counterfeit, the drugs spent some considerable time out of the usual distribution channels, and may have been stored in conditions that affected their quality and activity. The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has launched an enquiry to try to determine how the supply chain breach was able to occur and to assess its own response to the threat.

Despatches will claim in a programme due to be aired this evening (available in the UK only) that the regulator was warned that falsified drugs could be in circulation but opted not to warn the public.

The programme suggests that the stolen drugs – which included prostate cancer treatment Casodex and cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor – were inveigled into the UK supply chain by bogus European wholesalers set up by organised criminals.

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