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Articles from March 2009

Counterfeit Drugs Seized in Stoke

More than £250,000 of counterfeit, unlicensed and withdrawn medicines have been seized during raids in Stoke-on-Trent, the MHRA said.

A woman aged 50 was bailed on suspicion of illegally selling prescription drugs after the morning raids on Tuesday. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said a couple in their 60s were being questioned.

It said the drugs were the “tip of the iceberg” of an expected multi-million-pound illegal online medicine business. The woman who was arrested and bailed is to appear before police for further questioning at a later date, the agency said.

The raids, carried out with help of Staffordshire Police, resulted from an MHRA investigation into the website Pharma2u.com which sells popular prescription drugs.

MHRA Head of Operations Danny Lee-Frost said: “This online pharmacy has been supplying a massive range of medicines from weight and hair loss tablets, to anti-depressants, powerful painkillers and even anabolic steroids.” To read the full story Click Here (04 March 2009, BBC)

Guidelines published to aid fight against counterfeit drugs

Welcome Trust-funded researchers have developed a set of guidelines to help assess the quality of medicines and combat counterfeit drugs. Writing in PLoS Medicine, an international panel of drug quality experts outlines recommendations to aid research groups study and report the prevalence of fake and poor quality drugs, and indicates where such drugs are available.

A significant proportion of medicines used in the developing world are of poor quality, with many actually counterfeit. These threaten public health programmes against major diseases such as malaria and raise the risk of drug resistance. Yet little is known about the extent to which fake or substandard drugs have penetrated international markets.

The authors, from Kenya, Laos, Thailand, the UK and the USA, surveyed the limited number of published studies available and reviewed their strategies, techniques and experiences. Based on this analysis, they produced recommendations on the best sampling strategies, ways of standardising reports on the sampling of drugs and issues that should be addressed in future studies.

“The health of people living in developing countries is critically dependent upon the availability of medicines, and poor-quality medicines are a major impediment to improvements in public health. Despite this there are few reliable data describing their epidemiology, or their effects on health and drug resistance,” said Dr Paul Newton, from the Wellcome Trust-Mahosot Hospital-Oxford University Tropical Medicine Research Collaboration in Laos, and lead author on the study. To read the full story Click Here (24 March 2009, Wellcome Trust)

RPSGB/MHRA step up fight against counterfeit medicines 


The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) have teamed up in order to raise public awareness of the dangers of counterfeit medicines.

The agencies have worked with patient groups to produce guidance that patients will receive along with their prescriptions when they visit a pharmacy. A postcard-sized leaflet has been designed to provide patients with practical advice on how best to purchase safe medicines, as well as warn of the dangers of counterfeit medicinces.

The move represents another strategy in a unified effort to combat the growing stream of fake medicines infiltrating supply chains around the globe.

Towards the end of last year, EU customs officials reported they had seized 43 million fake drugs in just two months following the first coordinated action by customs controls throughout the 27 member states, and recent research revealed that more than 330,000 men alone purchase prescription drugs from unregulated sources – such as the Internet – every year in the UK.

The problem is certainly on the rise around the globe, but the UK offers a particularly attractive and potentially lucrative destination for counterfeiters, largely because of high drug prices, a sizeable market, extensive Internet connectivity and a complex supply chain in the country. To read the full story Click Here (27 March 2009, PharmaTimes)

MHRA discover counterfeit Novo Nordisk insulin pens

The MHRA said on Friday it had discovered a batch of counterfeit Novo Nordisk (NOVOb.CO) insulin pen needles circulating in the country and urged diabetics not to use them. The counterfeit batch is Novofine Needles 31G (0.25mm x 6mm) with the lot number 08J02S, the MHRA said in a statement.

“The possible consequences of using these counterfeit needles could include adverse reactions; pain and discomfort; infection and difficulty in attaching the needle to the pen injection device,” it added.

The discovery is the latest example of fake medicines turning up in the supply chain and highlights the lucrative returns for criminals in passing off bogus treatments as genuine.

In recent years the MHRA has also found a number of counterfeit of batches of top-selling drugs, including Pfizer’s cholesterol fighter Lipitor and Sanofi-Aventis blood-thinner Plavix. To read the full story Click Here (27 March 2009, Reuters)