UK seized £30m in illegal medicines last year

UK regulator the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has revealed that seized more than 15.5m doses of illegally traded medicines with a street value of more than £30m ($38m) last year with the help of law enforcement.

That total includes more than two million doses seized during Operation Pangea, the international initiative of global enforcement partners that targets the illegal internet trade in medical products, said the MHRA earlier today.

The seizures included the usual haul of anti-anxiety medicines, opioids and sleeping pills and falsified and unlicensed lifestyle products such as erectile dysfunction and hair loss medications, as well as a small number of aesthetic products such as wrinkle treatment Botox.

One notable change over prior years was the prevalence of falsified medicines claiming to contain semaglutide, the active ingredient in Novo Nordisk’s diabetes therapy Ozempic and Wegovy for obesity, which have become sought-after as weight-loss therapies. With limited supplies through legitimate channels, some people have turned to the black market to source the drug

The MHRA also said it disrupted more than 12,000 websites illegally selling medical products to the public and shut down almost 3,000 social media profiles during the year, with the help of online marketplaces, social media platforms and technology providers, as well as law enforcement agencies at home and abroad.

Support and advice provided by the MHRA to online marketplaces resulted in the successful removal of more than half a million unregulated prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines and medical devices before they could even be offered for sale to the public.

“This year, working with partners across public and private sectors, our efforts have led to more medicines seizures than ever, custodial sentences for offenders, the removal of criminal profits and considerable success in disrupting the trade online,” said Andy Morling, MHRA deputy director in charge of criminal enforcement.

“We would urge everyone to think very carefully before buying medicines they see online and to take the necessary steps to assure themselves the seller is legitimate,” he added.

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