People mistakenly think that counterfeit medicines predominantly occur in developing nations. However, an article in Scotland’s The Herald on the frequency in which counterfeit medicines are found in the UK or shipped through the country should make anyone rethink that belief.

In 2016 alone, Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) seized over 3.7 million doses of counterfeit medicines. The cash value of seized drugs increased from £2.5 million in 2012-13 to over £17 million in 2016-2017. Intelligence analysts working for law enforcement believe that India is the single biggest supplier of these counterfeit drugs, which people buy from online pharmacies. The drugs arrive via the post, most frequently with a return address in Mumbai or Delhi, though sometimes via another European Union (EU) nation. By sending small, but frequent packages, more of the counterfeit drugs are making it into the country.

The article stated that Viagra used to be the king of counterfeit drugs. Kamagra, a generic Indian ED product that supposedly contains the same active ingredient as Viagra, is now the most frequently seized ED drug in the UK, but authorities are seizing any other types of counterfeit drugs too. Diet pills, which were supposed to be made of a type of bean, contained sibutramine, a drug pulled from markets around the work because it caused heart attacks and strokes. Other side effects of the drug included headaches, dry mouth, constipation, insomnia, inflammation of the nose, sore throat, back pain, flu syndrome, nausea, joint pain, nervousness, and bloating.

A report from the MHRA stated that the UK is a target market for unlicensed Indian medicines, but not just for her residents. The UK is also seen as a transit and distribution hub. Indian medicines shipped from the UK have been seized in the U.S., Australia, and the EU. Although the medicines do not originate in the UK, the article stated that knowing that counterfeit goods were shipped from the country reflects poorly and suggests weak border controls and ineffective regulation practices.