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Coronavirus Outbreak Brings an Increase In Counterfeit Medicines and Devices

on Monday, 30 March 2020.

Suppliers of counterfeit medicines and medical devices are exploiting public fears around coronavirus (COVID-19), warns the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the UK's medicines and medical devices regulator.

This was revealed in Operation Pangea XIII - the annual global operation co-ordinated between regulators and police and law enforcement bodies in 90 countries, tackling the illegal online sale of medicines and medical devices. This year's operation took place in March, when demand for protective equipment (eg masks) and treatments (eg antiviral medication) against coronavirus were in full swing.

In the operation, the MHRA reported that over 34,000 unlicensed and fake products, advertised as 'corona spray', 'coronavirus medicines' or, 'coronaviruses packages' were seized. They did not find any of the coronavirus related products had reached the UK in this operation. However, there were other discoveries.

In the UK, the MHRA and the UK Border Force found 870,000 doses of unlicensed medicines. They also took down 300 websites and removed 1,000 social media adverts online offering medicines illegally. The fake medicines included anti-depressants, erectile dysfunction tablets, painkillers and anabolic steroids.

Mark Jackson, Head of Enforcement at the MHRA, commented: "Criminals who sell medicines and devices illegally are not only breaking the law but have no regard for your health and will take advantage of a major public health crisis to make a profit. Taking fake or unlicensed medicines and using a non-compliant medical device could put your health and safety in danger and may lead to serious health issues."

Coronavirus Legal Advice

Remaining Vigilant

It was impressive to see the MHRA playing another leading part in this year's Operation Pangea. It was encouraging that the fake medicines and devices linked to coronavirus had not found their way to the UK, but people must remain vigilant when they see the scale of the problem of illegal medicines and medical products being offered in this way.

If you have any thoughts on this issue, please share them with Paul Gershlick in our Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences team on 01923 919 320, or complete the form below.

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