After nearly two years under investigation, the final sentence for running an international multi-million pound counterfeit drug operation was issued in the United Kingdom. The first four convictions were made in September 2007 and on July 6, the final member of the operation received a 12 month sentence, suspended for two years, for masterminding an industrial scale conspiracy of supplying counterfeit drugs between 2002 and 2005. In total, the seven convicted members of this international counterfeit drug ring received a combined 17.5 years imprisonment—an average of 2.5 years for each participant—for their part in the U.K. distribution arm of a global ring operating from China, India and Pakistan, extending to the Caribbean and the United States.

Marvin D. Shepherd, PhDShepherd (sm)

After nearly two years under investigation, the final sentence for running an international multi-million pound counterfeit drug operation was issued in the United Kingdom.  The first four convictions were made in September 2007 and on July 6, the final member of the operation received a 12 month sentence, suspended for two years, for masterminding an industrial scale conspiracy of supplying counterfeit drugs between 2002 and 2005.  In total, the seven convicted members of this international counterfeit drug ring received a combined 17.5 years imprisonment—an average of 2.5 years for each participant—for their part in the U.K. distribution arm of a global ring operating from China, India and Pakistan, extending to the Caribbean and the United States.

Sentences such as this undermine the seriousness and true threat that counterfeit drugs pose to society and public health.  Unfortunately, reduced sentences such as this aren’t confined to the United Kingdom.  Just this past March, an Arizona couple received at most eight years imprisonment for running an illegal drug business netting more than $2.5 million from 2004 to 2006.  In comparison, convicted members of an illegal recreational drug ring would receive mandatory minimum sentences starting at 20 years up to life imprisonment for distribution in the United States.

Shouldn’t the criminals involved in the manufacturing, distribution and sale of counterfeit drugs be sentenced at the same level and severity?  If we continue to treat the production and distribution of counterfeit drugs as a moderate offense, then these rings will flourish and likewise continue to threaten the safety of unsuspecting consumers across the globe.

As outlined in our Principles for Drug Safety, the Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) supports increasing criminal penalties against the perpetrators of counterfeit drugs to reflect the gravity of their offenses.  For more information on the PSM’s recommendations to combat counterfeit drugs and secure the safety of our prescription drugs, visit www.safemedicines.org.