The MHRA’s Enforcement Group, working in collaboration with German law enforcement partners, has helped to dismantle a global criminal network involved in the illegal sale of medicines online.

The network stretched across Europe and as far afield as Singapore and Australia. On October 13, German authorities in Munich arrested two individuals, suspected of being the leaders of this extensive criminal network.

In 2019, during the MHRA’s earlier operation to dismantle the UK element of the network, investigators seized over half a million doses of unlicenced medicines and class C controlled drugs across the country, from residential and commercial premises in Bournemouth, London and Gateshead. These included treatments for cancer and HIV – as well as antibiotics, erectile dysfunction pills, and weight loss medication.

Side effects from these illicit medicines can be serious and include vomiting and abnormal heartbeat. Medicines from sources outside the regulated supply chain may also contain dangerous ingredients that can have devastating consequences for the people who use them.

Significant financial assets, held in multiple bank accounts, were also seized in this operation, as suspected proceeds from these crimes.

The perpetrators used illegal websites to advertise and supply these medicines to people in the UK.
Two people have been charged so far in the UK and are awaiting trial, while the others remain under investigation.

The MHRA worked closely with Germany, Spain, the US and Europol to identify and dismantle this criminal network.

The agency is also reminding consumers that, when buying online, they should be wary of dodgy websites, suspicious URLs and remember that claims such as ‘100% safe, no side effects’ or ‘quick results’ are often warning signs. Reduced prices and speedy deliveries can expose the unwary to fake medicines, identity theft and fraud.

Andy Morling, Head of Enforcement at MHRA, said:

“This is a great example of international collaboration resulting in the dismantling of criminal networks operating across international boundaries. I have no doubt that the action taken by our German colleagues and the contribution made by the UK and other International partners will have a significant positive impact in tackling the illegal sale and supply of medicines.

“I would encourage anyone with a medical condition to seek advice from a healthcare professional. If medicines are required, then only purchase them from an authorised seller.”

Posted on the UK MHRA website on 1 November 2020