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MHRA raids net illegal drugs worth £8.6m

The MHRA joined forces with the Home Office and local police to raid local homes and arrest five individuals in connection with the illegal online supply of medicines

The MHRA has seized more than £8 million worth of counterfeit and unlicensed drugs in a week-long crackdown on the illegal sale of medicines.

The "huge" £8.6m haul included "potentially harmful" slimming pills as well as controlled drugs such as diazepam and anabolic steroids, the UK medicines watchdog said.

As part of the operation, which took place from May 11 to 21, MHRA enforcement officers joined forces with the Home Office's Border Force and local police to raid homes and arrest five individuals in connection with the illegal online supply of medicines.

The MHRA arrested five individuals in connection with the illegal online supply of medicines

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The seizures formed part of Operation Pangea, the seventh annual global crackdown coordinated by Interpol, which resulted in 237 arrests, £18.6m worth of seizures and more than 10,000 websites being targeted worldwide, the MHRA said.

The medicines watchdog said it seized 3.6 million doses of unlicensed and counterfeit medicines in the UK, including 1.2 million doses of erectile dysfunction drugs, more than 383,000 slimming products and more than 330,000 doses of "powerful and often misused drugs" such as sleeping pills, tranquilisers and antidepressants.

Seventy two per cent of the medicine packages had arrived in the UK from India, with 11 per cent being sent from China, the MHRA said.

MHRA head of enforcement Alastair Jeffrey said the drugs had been found in "appalling conditions, such as a dirty, old building with broken windows [and] medicines lying on the floor in bin bags".

As well as shutting down nearly 1,900 UK websites, it was the first year the MHRA targeted YouTube accounts. The watchdog had removed nearly 19,000 videos since last year's operation, in response to a growing trend for criminals to use social media to illegally sell medicines, it said.

Earlier this month, the MHRA warned the public against using "potentially dangerous" Asian herbal remedies after they were found to contain undeclared prescription-only medicines and heavy metals.

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