More than 285,000 illegally traded medicines and medical devices valued at over £850,000 have been seized by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

In the UK, 48 social media accounts unlawfully offering to supply medicines were also shut down, the MHRA revealed today. Officers from the MHRA Criminal Enforcement Unit searched five premises in the West Midlands and London, with two suspects arrested, it said.

Anti-depressants, erectile dysfunction tablets, painkillers, anabolic steroids and slimming pills were among the medicines seized.

Andy Morling, deputy director (criminal enforcement) at the MHRA, said: ‘Unlicensed medicines and non-compliant medical devices pose serious risk to public health as both their safety and efficacy can be compromised…

‘The MHRA’s Criminal Enforcement Unit will continue to work closely with our international partners and Border Force to prevent unlicensed medicines and non-compliant medical devices from entering the UK, and to bring the criminals behind this illegal trade to justice.’

Part of a global week of action coordinated by Interpol, which ran from 23 to 30 June, this year’s ‘Operation Pangea’ - an international effort to disrupt sales of counterfeit and illicit health products - saw countries across the world join forces to seize non-compliant medical products.

Often, products are manufactured in one country and shipped to another, while advertisements for the medicines are hosted on websites based in many different countries.

Last year, the MHRA removed more than 3,100 advertising links for the illegal sale and supply of unlicensed medicines, shut down 43 websites, and seized more than three million fake medicines and devices worth more than £9m.

It was announced earlier this month that a new Omicron Covid vaccine could be used for autumn boosters in the UK if approved by the MHRA, after Moderna said it has ‘completed regulatory submissions’ for the jab.