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UK seizes £84m in black market medicines through global partnership

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UK seizes £84m in black market medicines through global partnership

Antidepressants are among the most commonly seized drugs in the UK (iStock)

Black market medicines worth over £84m have been seized in the UK in the last 15 years through crackdown effort Operation Pangea, the MHRA has said. 

Operation Pangea, an initiative launched by the MHRA in 2006 and now coordinated by Interpol with over 89 countries taking part, has seen over two million medicine doses worth almost £5m seized in the UK this year alone. Commonly seized prescription medicines include anti-depressants, pain medicines and human growth hormones.

Pangea targets “medicines that pose a significant threat to consumer safety” according to Interpol, including both counterfeits and products that have been illegally diverted from legitimate supply chains.

Globally, erectile dysfunction medicines are the most commonly seized products, accounting for 22 per cent in the most recent Pangea operation from October 3-10 – a drive that led to 72 arrests and the shutting down of more than 1,300 “criminal websites”.

“Psychotherapeutic agents such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicines and stimulants were a close second at 19 per cent, followed by sex hormones and gastrointestinal medicines at 12 per cent respectively,” said an Interpol spokesperson. 

Notable hauls in the most recent Pangea effort included the seizure of 9,000 bottles of suspected counterfeit cough syrups in Mozambique and 11,000 “Covid-19 irregular test kits”. 

Interpol added: “The operation underlines the continuing need for a coordinated and global response against the threat posed by illicit medicines and transnational organised crime groups.”

MHRA deputy director of criminal enforcement Andy Morling said: “Fifteen years ago, the MHRA started Operation Pangea, combining our knowledge and resources with those of international partners to disrupt and bring to justice the criminal gangs responsible for selling medicines illegally and causing harm around the world.”

Mr Morling urged the public to “only purchase prescription medicines from a pharmacy and only when prescribed by a healthcare professional”.

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