More than £2million worth of illegal and ‘potentially harmful’ medicines have been seized by officials during a UK sting.
Medications including diazepam – known as Valium – and stimulant drug modafinil were found stashed inside clothes and video game cases.
One person was arrested after Government agents raided a semi-detached house and a lock-up unit in Manchester, as well as finding packages at airports and mail delivery centres.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found more than one million doses of medications as part of a co-ordinated international operation.
Interpol’s Operation Pangea took place in 116 countries and uncovered around £10.9million worth of medicines and led to 859 arrests.
More than £2million worth of counterfeit or unlicensed drugs were found in the UK as part of Operation Pangea, which uncovered a total of £10.9million worth of the medicines in 116 countries worldwide
The MHRA carried out its raids between October 9 and 17, and have warned people against buying medicines online and self-medicating.
‘Criminals who sell medicines over the internet have absolutely no regard for your health,’ said Alastair Jeffrey, MHRA’s head of enforcement.
‘And taking medicine which is ether falsified or unlicensed puts you at risk of serious harm.
‘Our intelligence-led enforcement operations have seized millions of counterfeit and unlicensed medicines and devices in the UK.
‘This is just the tip of the iceberg, and we will continue to take action against known criminals – working with our international partners to stop illegal medicines from entering the UK.
‘To protect your health, visit your GP, get a correct diagnosis and buy medicines from a legitimate high street or registered pharmacy which can trade online with a distance selling logo.’
Cancer medications, counterfeit pain medications, dermal fillers and illegal medical syringes were all among the contraband seized around the world.
Government agents and police in Manchester raided a semi-detached house and a lock-up unit, and packages travelling through airports and mail delivery centres to find the illegally sold medications
Some of the medicines were hidden inside everyday items such as clothing (pictured, a folded t-shirt with medications stashed inside it) and video game cases
As part of the global operation, hundreds of websites and online adverts were also taken down in a move to crack down on the illegal online drug trade
Operation Pangea, led by world police organisation Interpol, also shut down 123 websites offering fake or unlicensed medical products, and removed 535 online adverts.
Interpol said the illegal online drug trade – and in particular on a secret part of the internet known as the Dark Web – has been growing in recent years.
This is despite authorities shutting down major market sites, as crime gangs have diversified and looked for new ways to make money online.
Earlier this month the MHRA also met with Indian authorities to crack down on the flow of unlicensed medicines into the UK.
India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had recently stopped 350,000 pills of medicines like diazepam, tramadol and sleeping pill zopiclone from leaving the country.
MHRA’s advice for avoiding harmful or counterfeit medicine is to be extra careful when buying medicines online because scammers can steal card details.
People should not self-diagnose and get their own medication – if they are unwell they should see a doctor and be properly prescribed and go to a pharmacy.
Anyone who knows of a website illegally selling medication should report the website online.
SIX MILLION PRODUCTS SEIZED DURING 2015 RAIDS
In 2015, in an earlier version of Operation Pangea, officials confiscated more than six million tablets and medical devices in raids across England during the crackdown on online sales.
The seizures included thousands of potentially deadly slimming pills, medication to aid concentration, anaemia drugs and erectile dysfunction tablets. In an alarming development, 15,000 doses of fake cancer drugs were also found.
Gangs are moving away from cocaine and heroin to focus on health products, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) warned at the time.
Alastair Jeffrey, head of enforcement, said criminals had realised there were huge sums to be made.
‘Counterfeit medicines are the most profitable source across the whole criminal spectrum,’ he added.
‘We are beginning to see more established criminal groups entering this space. Risk is low and the profits are very high.’
Mr Jeffrey said jail sentences for making and selling fake drugs were too low compared with narcotics, adding: ‘It’s two years, it’s not a police priority. Sentencing does not reflect the severity of the crime and does not act as a deterrent.’
The drugs seizures were part of a global operation led by Interpol that resulted in items worth £51.6million being impounded in 115 countries.