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Articles from November 2008

UK leads raid on counterfeit medicines sold on the web

Yesterday, as part of an international operation in conjunction with Interpol and regulatory authorities in eight other countries, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) raided 12 addresses in the UK and seized over a thousand packs of unlicensed medicines. The raid related to seven internet sites believed to be selling unlicensed products claiming to treat conditions such as diabetes, hair loss, impotency and obesity. To read the full story click here. (13 November 2008, PMLive).

Pfizer launch the ‘Cracking Counterfeit’ report

  • 68% of male respondents suspect ingredients found in counterfeit medicine to be very different from authentic medicines
  • 37% of men cited convenience and speed as the key reasons why they purchase prescription only medicine without a prescription
  • The majority (60%) of the men who have bought prescription only medicine without a prescription admit that if there was a possibility their medicine was counterfeit, it would have a great impact on their likelihood to purchase.
  • Almost half (45%) of men purchasing prescription only without a prescription agreed that it was easy to get hold of

Dr David Gillen, Pfizer’s Medical Director said: “Men bypassing the health system to purchase medicines is a growing problem in the UK, particularly relating to the increased availability of counterfeit medicines. These new findings show that men are not only often ignorant about what medicine actually requires a prescription but worryingly they know buying medicine from illicit sources might be harmful but convenience and anonymity often outweigh their fear levels.” (12 November 2008, Pfizer)

An unlicensed tanning drug use increases

A BBC investigation has found that a growing number of people in the UK are injecting themselves with an unlicensed tanning drug, Melanotan. Although it is still undergoing clinical trials, it is still sold illegally online and in salons and gyms.

Melanotan is a synthetic hormone that stimulates the body’s production of melanin, a substance that gives the skin its colour. Melanin is produced naturally by the body, dark-skinned people have more melanin than light-skinned people. As it is still undergoing trials, experts are worried that the long-term effects are not yet known.

The investigation by the BBC found needle exchanges across the UK have noted an increasing amount of people coming in to get syringes to inject the tanning drug.

Melanotan has been developed for the treatment of skin conditions but has not yet been licensed for human use. The government’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has written to 18 websites in the past few months warning them to stop advertising Melanotan. To read the full story click here (21 November 2008, BBC).

Aegate steals a march in war against counterfeit medicines

The drug authentication business Aegate, move into Ireland in January strengthening its position ahead of expected EU legislation to fight the threat of counterfeit drugs.

Aegate use barcodes and a bank of computers at a secure facility in Britain to check for fake medicines.  They already has operations in Belgium, Greece and Italy and is looking to roll out its system in another three to four markets this year, said managing director, Gary Noon. Its expansion into Ireland involves hooking up all 1,500 chemists. Initially, pharmacists will only be able to confirm the batch that the medicine comes from, although within a year each individual packet will have a unique 74-digit number.

Counterfeiters have built on their success in illegally selling fake Viagra over the internet and are now targeting the world’s top-selling drug, Lipitor, in addition medicines to treat heart attacks, cancer and even schizophrenia. Some packaging is so convincing and authentic looking that it takes a lab test to show that the pills inside are phoney.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 per cent of drugs sold through legitimate channels in the developed world are counterfeit. In Britain, over the past three years, the authorities have identified 14 batches of drugs as counterfeit. Half a million counterfeit medicines were seized at the EU’s borders in 2005 and officials expect recent figures to be higher. The WHO estimates the illegal trade will be worth $75bn (£50bn) globally by 2010. To read the full story click here (23 November 2008, The Independent).