MHRA Reveals New Strategy to Crack Down on Fake Drugs

The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), a government agency responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are acceptably safe, has revealed their new anti-counterfeiting policy to increase the clamp down on fake drugs arriving in the UK supply chain.

Developing on the achievements of the initial action plan, the new Falsified Medical Products Strategy 2012-2015 is intended to further confront fake medications and devices in the UK, bringing together stakeholders and international partners under a collective effort to increase public awareness of the issue and carry out enforcement strategy.

The new strategy has two aims: firstly to further reduce the dangers to patients in the UK from the risk from counterfeit medicinal goods, and to make it increasingly risky for those participating in such illegal activities.

This, the MHRA notes, it will achieve in three ways: prevention, by applying measures to prevent fake medicines reaching patients; incident management, to ensure that reports of alleged counterfeits are explored quickly and efficiently, with product recalls where appropriate; and investigation, to thoroughly scrutinise and prosecute where appropriate.

A spokesman for the MHRA commented that, in comparison to the first strategy, the new strategy places “a large emphasis on ‘prevention’, though implementation of the EU’s Falsified Medicines Directive which will significantly help in securing the legitimate supply chain to prevent penetration of falsified medicines.”  It also describes “the swift MHRA response that would take place should an incident occur,” the spokesman added.

Improving public awareness is also a crucial section of the strategy, and the MHRA is “utilising social media to reach mass audiences and will be engaging in targeted campaigns in partnership with key stakeholders to ensure that the public are in a position where they can make informed decisions about where they obtain their medicines from.”

Counterfeit drugs are a major problem across the globe, and the UK is certainly an attractive destination, given its large and complex supply chain and huge medicines market, valued at £8,000 million in 2009.

The Agency notes that global partnership has exposed “clear evidence” that the UK pharmaceutical market its still attractive to counterfeiters, but Nimo Ahmed, the MHRA’s acting head of enforcement, stressed that the MHRA is “committed to working closely with international partners and providing leadership in dealing with this issue to protect public health and maintain public confidence in the way we obtain our medicinal products.”

Over £25 Million Seized In Last Five Years

Since the initial plan was launched in 2007, the Agency has built up a number of successes in the war against counterfeiters.

Over the last five years, it has captured over £25 million worth of fake medical products, and its activities have “contributed to a marked reduction in known incidents of counterfeit medicinal products entering the regulated supply chain.”

In 2010, a co-ordinated global operation to confront the internet sale of illegal drugs resulted in the seizure of over two million doses worldwide, the closure of nearly 500 websites, and the arrest of 90 individuals.

Last year, over 13,500 illegal websites were taken down and 2.5 million doses of counterfeit drugs were seized, in the largest such operation to date.

In March of this year a joint operation across Europe saw 300,000 doses of medicines seized.  Last month the MHRA made its biggest ever confiscation order of £14.4 million against a UK individual after he was imprisoned for selling and supplying both fake and unlicensed drugs.


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