Headlines: March 25th, 2009

Pharmacists have joined the government’s medicines regulator to warn about sales of counterfeits.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) say that the sale of counterfeit medicines is a growing problem around the world, largely driven by illegal websites.

The partners are launching a new information campaign to raise awareness of what they say is an increasing risk to the public’s health. Information will be sent to pharmacies over the next two months, for distribution to patients with their prescriptions.

Developed with patient groups, a double-sided postcard-sized leaflet offers practical advice to patients about what counterfeit medicine means, how to avoid fakes and what to do if they suspect they have been sold or supplied counterfeits. One side explains the safest way to purchase medicines and the other outlines ‘The dangers of faking it’. It also warns that organised criminal gangs have become involved in producing illegal medicines, supplying them through the internet, often to unwitting patients.

Heidi Wright from the RPSGB warned that counterfeit medicine was ineffective and could cause serious illness. She said: “It’s important that people are aware that they should always get their medicine from a reputable source such as a pharmacist or a registered online pharmacy site which has the RPSGB’s Internet Pharmacy Logo.”

The RPSGB launched its Internet Pharmacy Logo last year to help the public recognise legal, registered pharmacies.

The information campaign will be backed by enforcement action from the MHRA, which is encouraging people to report illegal websites. Mick Deats, the MHRA’s head of enforcement said: “The MHRA will not hesitate to take action against those who undermine public health.”