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Man sentenced in biggest counterfeit bust in UK history

A man is sentenced to four and a half years in prison following the biggest counterfeit lifestyle drugs bust in British history

A man has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison following the biggest counterfeit drugs bust in British history.

The man was convicted of four offences under the Medicines Act and Trade Marks Act after supplying millions of pounds worth of fake Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil) and Propecia (finasteride) between 2002 and 2005.

Three other men have also been found guilty of conspiracy to supply counterfeit drugs, and will be sentenced next month.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the seizure of over GBP 1.5m (USD 3m) counterfeit drugs led to the unravelling of the biggest conspiracy of the supply of counterfeit medicines so far in the UK.

"This is the first and biggest case that the MHRA has been involved in, and since this me we have been involved in a few others. This case has given us a better understanding of counterfeiters and we have learnt massive lessons about how they are working and how they distribute," Mick Deats, head of enforcement and intelligence at the MHRA told PMLive.

The men were part of the UK distribution arm of a global counterfeiting ring, operating from China, India and Pakistan, and extending to the Caribbean and the US.

"One of the key characteristics of these investigations is that they are all international in scale. The more international forums that exist to promote enquiries and evidence from other countries, such as the World Health Organisation's international task force against counterfeits, the easier it is for an investigation," explained Deats.

The counterfeit medicines were filtered for sale through licensed wholesalers to pharmacies in the UK and through websites operating both in the UK and overseas.

In 2004 counterfeit Cialis made its way into the regulated supply chain reaching patient level, this lead to a recall of that product from the UK market.

Counterfeit Viagra was seized by HM Revenue & Customs at Stansted airport in 2002, followed by a number of other seizures at Stansted and Heathrow airports where false descriptions for a variety of products, such as "Vitamins C & E", "Calcium for Kids" and "Samples of Mineral Supplements for Dogs" were used.

"We are delighted with the outcome so far - the message from the courts should be a clear deterrent, as the individual's sentence was a severe one," said Deats.

The MHRA is holding a conference on 22 November in London on Combatting Counterfeit Medicines, click here for more information.

19th September 2007

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