Articles from November 2009

Criminals cashing in on fake swine flu medicines 

European medicine authorities are growing increasingly alarmed by the number of bogus swine flu remedies being sold over the Internet. The news comes as MEPs gear up to debate new rules covering counterfeit medicines.

The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) is warning that criminal gangs are trying to cash in on the H1N1 flu pandemic by selling fake or low-quality antiviral medicines and vaccines online.

Some fake drugs contain no active ingredients while others are laced with sugar, rat poison and other medicines, according to industry sources. The EMEA says these products present a serious health risk for those who buy them.

The temptation to buy illegal medicines over the Internet has been heightened by concerns that not all European governments have stockpiled enough medicines to treat the entire population. It was reported earlier this year that Tamiflu has overtaken Viagra as the drug most commonly advertised in spam emails – spawning the term ‘Spamiflu’. Read the full story on Euroactiv (Euroactiv, 1st November 2009)

Fake drugs “a risk to millions”

Purchasing counterfeit medicine over the internet is risking the health of millions of people, despite regulated drugs being available on prescription, industry figures have warned.

Research preceding a hard-hitting joint campaign by a group including drug companies and industry regulators found one in seven adults has avoided the healthcare system to obtain prescription drugs.

In response, the campaign will highlight the possibility that drugs available online may be dangerous or offer no medical benefits. The majority of doctors quizzed said the practice was placing people’s health and potentially lives at risk as some of the medicines obtained may be counterfeit.

Fake medicines can contain harmful ingredients such as rat poison and lead paint, and can be prescribed and created by inexperienced people. They can cause harm to patients, leading to death in some cases, the research said.

The Get Real, Get A Prescription campaign is a joint initiative by Pfizer, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB), the Patients Association and HEART UK.  Read the full story on Nursing in Practice (Nursing in Practice, 4th November 2009)

Murky world of the fake internet pills

THE multi-millionaire lifestyle of Ashton under Lyne businessman Martin Hickman demonstrated in no uncertain terms the riches available to people peddling prescription drugs illegally on the internet. Hickman is thought to have made £6m selling fake and unlicensed Viagra-like prescription drugs – enough to buy a £500,000 country house, a £2.4m Chelsea flat and a home in Marbella.

Hickman is now paying the price for playing ‘Russian roulette’ with the lives of his customers after being sentenced to two years behind bars having pleaded guilty to six counts of selling and supplying fake and unlicensed medicines, and money laundering to the sum of £1.4m.

Enforcement officers from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will return to court next month in an attempt to seize those ill-gotten gains.

Mick Deats, group manager of enforcement at the MHRA, explains: “The Medicines Act of 1968 only provides a maximum sentence of two years for someone selling drugs which should only be provided through a prescription.

“The trade is so lucrative that really isn’t a deterrent…That’s why we’re determined to seize the proceeds of crime wherever we can and hit criminals where it really hurts.” Read the full story on Manchester Evening News (Manchester Evening News, 9th November 2009)

Trading Medicines for Human Use: Shortages and Supply Chain Obligations

Guidance helping pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors to meet their obligations regarding the supply of medicines was jointly published today by nine organisations including the MHRA.

The current economic climate has resulted in an increase of some branded medicines being exported from the UK to other EU countries for profit. This ‘parallel exporting’ of UK medicines is legal and in line with European trade laws. However, this practice has the potential to contribute to shortages of medicines in the UK market, which could have an impact on patients and the level of care they receive.

The new guidance aims to reduce future problems with the export of medicines for profit by setting out the key legal and ethical obligations for manufacturers, wholesalers, NHS Trusts, registered pharmacies and dispensing doctors in relation to the supply and trading of medicines. The advice was developed jointly by various industry bodies representing the different parts of the medicine supply chain, including the MHRA and the ABPI (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry).

This guidance is relevant to marketing authorisation holders, manufacturers, wholesalers, dispensing doctors, registered pharmacies and NHS Trusts. Click here to read the full guidance from the MHRA.