More than £2m worth of falsified medicines have been seized in the UK in less than three weeks, the Government’s medicines watchdog has revealed.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said on Wednesday (24 October) that it intercepted one million doses of medicines, worth over £2m, between 9 and 27 October. These included diazepam, modafinil and dermal fillers.

The drugs bust formed part of the global operation Pangea, in which 500 tons of illicit drugs totalling around £11m were netted in 116 countries, resulting in 859 arrests.


Concealed in ‘hollowed-out book’


With the help of anti-crime organisation Interpol, the MHRA raided properties located in the North of England that were linked to the online trading of illegal and potentially harmful medicines. This led to one arrest, the watchdog said.

In addition to the raids, the MHRA searched certain airports, mail delivery centres and websites on the open and dark web. It said that 123 websites were shut down and 535 online adverts removed.

According to Interpol, around 150,000 ‘powerful sleeping pills’ were found in shipments labelled as clothing, bedding and food across the UK. In Ireland, more illicit sleeping pills were concealed in a hollowed-out book.


‘Tip of the iceberg’


MHRA head of enforcement Alastair Jeffrey said the findings are just ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

He added: ‘Our intelligence-led enforcement operations have seized millions of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines and devices in the UK. We will continue to take action against known criminals – working with our international partners to stop illegal medicines from entering the UK.

‘Criminals who sell medicines over the internet have absolutely no regard for your health and taking medicine that is ether falsified or unlicensed puts you at risk of serious harm.’