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Illegally traded drugs worth ‘almost’ £5m seized in 2023, says MHRA

The medicines watchdog has revealed that more than two million medicine doses traded illegally over the internet have been seized so far this year.

Interpol operations have seized more than two million “doses” of illegally traded medicines in 2023 so far, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) revealed on Tuesday (October 31).

The illegal medicines, worth “almost” £5m, were confiscated as part of Operation Pangea – its international initiative cracking down on internet medicines crime – the MHRA announced.

Read more: Suspended sentence for illegal POM dealers found with 1.3m pills

The prescription-only drugs seized during Operation Pangea’s UK actions in 2023 included “antidepressants, pain medication and human growth hormones”, it said.

Overall, the operation has led to the seizure in the UK of “over 25m” medicines and devices worth more than £84m since its first seizure operation 15 years ago, it added.


“Powerful” international partnership


The MHRA “instigated” Operation Pangea in April 2006 and conducted its first official operation to tackle the illegal trade of medicines over the internet when it seized “over 1,000” packs of unlicensed medicine in the UK in one day in November 2008, it said. 

Now co-ordinated by Interpol, the MHRA’s criminal enforcement unit (CEU) joined 89 countries to participate in Operation Pangea’s actions this year, it added.

Read more: Botox and fillers: ‘Thousands’ of unlicensed meds seized in Bolton raids

Andy Morling, MHRA deputy director of criminal enforcement, said that the operation was launched to “disrupt and bring to justice” those illegally trading in medicines and “causing harm” around the world.

Mr Morling implored that people should “only purchase prescription medicines from a pharmacy” and only when prescribed by healthcare professionals.

He added that the MHRA was “proud” of the growth in the operation from a “small collaboration” into a “powerful” international partnership.


Recent seizures news


In September, C+D reported that a Berkshire couple had been convicted for illegal possession and intent to supply unlicensed medicines after they were found with more than 1.3m pills from 65 different brands during a raid on their home by Thames Valley Police and the MHRA’s CEU.

In July, C+D reported that large quantities of unlicensed medical products such as Botox and dermal fillers were seized in “a morning of raids” across the Greater Manchester area. 

Read more: Man who made millions from illegally selling POMs online jailed for five years

The previous month, a West Midlands man was jailed for five years after he illegally sold more than £2m in prescription medication from a website, after an operation by the CEU and West Midlands Police.

And in May, three men were convicted for “running a large-scale drugs factory in Acton” that produced sedative Class C benzodiazepine drugs.

Read more: Man convicted for making ‘fake’ drugs in secret lab for sale on ‘dark web’

As far back as 2013, C+D spent the day with the MHRA as it conducted a series of raids on illegal medicines distributors.

In that year, Operation Pangea resulted in 58 arrests and the seizure of more than 9.9 million doses of medicines worth approximately £26.8m across the globe, with the UK accounting for more than half the value of the seized medicines.

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