Online Pharmacies Implicated in Counterfeit Drug Case Spanning Europe
The MHRA has announced that three men have been sentenced to 89 weeks imprisonment for laundering $400,000 generated by a fake online pharmacy selling counterfeit medicines.
The men were prosecuted as part of a wider investigation. From 2004 to 2009 they were laundering profits from a criminal online pharmacy website based in Cyprus. Says the MHRA, “The business was run by a UK criminal who set up a number of illegal online pharmacy businesses selling counterfeit and powerful prescription-only medicines from outside of the UK.”
The MHRA has been on a tear of prosecutions against illegal online pharmacies and counterfeit medicine and medical device sellers. In early 2012, the MHRA let FDA agents know they suspected counterfeit cancer medications were being passed into the U.S. They also prosecuted UK-based counterfeit drug distributor Peter Gillespie in 2011, who was working closely with Kevin Xu, convicted in the US for manufacturing and distributing counterfeit medications in 2010.
MHRA Director of Inspection, Enforcement and Standards, Gerald Heddell, will be speaking at the 2012 Interchange on September 28. The Interchange, at the National Press Club, in Washington, DC, is a full day conference of policymakers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, patient advocates, law enforcement, healthcare professionals, and anti-counterfeiting companies discussing the safety, health, and legal issues of counterfeit medications. Learn about the most recent criminal cases involving the MHRA and others at the 2012 Interchange.
MHRA agents made test purchases of counterfeit medicines to establish a link to the criminal enterprise, and then financial investigators traced over $1.5 million in three years from the websites’ UK bank account to a bank account in Cyprus.
The impact that online counterfeit drug sales have on patients’ health is real, remarked Nimo Ahmed, Acting Head of Enforcement at MHRA.
“This case highlights the criminality of the people who continue to put profit before patient’s health. These illegal pharmacy websites selling medicines bought from illegitimate sources pose a real threat to people’s health because they simply don’t know what they are getting.”
However, not all internet pharmacies are specious. Online pharmacies that have the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Seal (VIPPS) are safe sources for the convenience and cost savings of online shopping, without the risks of potential counterfeit medications.
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