Special squad aims to stop illegal Viagra

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A HIT SQUAD has been set up by the Government to investigate private clinics which are selling the impotence drug, Viagra, illegally.

The Medicines Control Agency has established a Special Enquiry Unit within its enforcement division to target the illegal sales because of concern about the high level of public interest in the drug.

Viagra is not yet licensed in the UK, and MCA agents will have the power to seize illegally imported supplies and have offenders prosecuted.

In a strongly worded warning, the MCA said yesterday: "Viagra is a powerful medicinal product and should only be used in accordance with the directions of a doctor. People run very real risks with their health if they obtain it from other sources, such as mail order or the Internet, and take it without the direction of a doctor. We strongly advise against buying Viagra this way."

The unit was set up to crack down on the black market in Viagra before it grows too big - there have already been more than a dozen reports of illegal attempts to sell Viagra in Britain.

Publicity surrounding the drug, which is said to make men of 60 feel 18 again, has led to huge demand worldwide, with people willing to pay high prices for illicit supplies.

Doctors have warned that people with heart conditions should be wary of the drug. Several deaths have already been reported in the United States.

Until it is licensed in the UK, which is expected in September, Viagra can only be sold or supplied on a "named patient" basis. A doctor prescribing a drug in these circumstances has to take personal responsibility for the outcome.

Under the 1968 Medicines Act, selling Viagra through small ads or Internet web sites is a criminal offence punishable by a maximum two-year prison sentence or an unlimited fine.

A Medicines Control Agency spokesman said: "We've had over a dozen reports of illegal trading. It's not on a big scale, but we want to nip it in the bud."

A confidential tip-off hotline has been set up for anyone who can help the enquiry unit. The number is 0171 273 0617.

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