Counterfeit Inhaler Importer Sentenced in UK

One of three businessmen accused of importing and selling counterfeit asthma inhalers in the United Kingdom has been convicted and sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment for possessing 800 counterfeit asthma inhalers.

Premal Gandesha, of West Drayton, pleaded guilty on June 13, 2011, to importing medicine from outside the European Economic Area through his company, Blueridge UK Ltd., without having the proper licenses. He also pleaded guilty to possessing unlicensed medicine with intent to place in the market, announced the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

The inhalers contained authentic canisters and gas for asthma medication; however the actuator, counter and packaging had been forged. Code numbers linking the canisters to the authentic manufacturer had been scratched off, reports the Uxbridge Gazette.

The medication, Seretide 250 Evohaler, is a long-acting bronchodilator that is used on a daily basis by asthmatics to maintain open airways. While patients are dependent upon the medication dose every day, testing performed on the counterfeit asthma inhalers found that the fakes jammed after thirty to forty doses. Meanwhile the dose counter registered completed doses that patients had not received from the canisters. In total, each canister should deliver more than 120 doses, and a patient would be vulnerable to asthma after using only a third of the medication, without realizing the medication was not being delivered in the inhaler, reports the Uxbridge Gazette.

Investigators report that the counterfeit medicine did not get distributed into the UK supply chain, and should not be concerned about their asthma medication received from proper channels.

MHRA Head of Operations, Danny Lee-Frost, said: “This was a serious international operation undertaken with one goal in mind, and that was profit. This man has shown a complete disregard for the health and safety of the public in his relentless pursuit of financial gain. Thankfully these products were identified before they could reach the supply chain.

He added, “Counterfeit medicines are big business and today’s sentence reflects the gravity and nature of the crime.”

Gandesha’s company, Bluerdige UK Ltd., has now gone into liquidation.

Belgian authorities first noticed the shipment of counterfeit medicine when it arrived in Antwerp in March 2009 on its way to London from Pakistan, reports the Uxbridge Gazette.

By S. Imber