£15 million worth of fake slimming pills, viagra and condoms seized in massive UK crackdown

The worldwide operation, co-ordinated by Interpol, resulted in 156 arrests and the seizure of £51.6 million of fake medicines

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The Independent Online

More than £15 million of counterfeit drugs and medical devices, including fake slimming pills, erectile dysfunction tablets and fake condoms have been seized in the UK following a global crackdown.

It's the Uk's biggest reported haul to date, and includes massive quantities of illegal and potentially dangerous medications.

The operation was led by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Alongside the raids, which seized almost 6.2 million doses of fake and unlicensed medicines, 1,380 websites selling illegal drugs were shut down.

But away from their dedicated websites, Mark Jackson, Head of Intelligence at the agency, said that criminals are increasingly using social media to flog their wares.

He said: "If you put something like, for example, Kamagra (Viagra) into Twitter, you will find tweets with embedded links to websites within it, so even though there's a limit to 140 characters, the criminal can still anonymously put a link to their shop."

He said that the reach and anonymity of social media makes it a great place for criminals to promote their illegal goods.

He said that the MHRA was working with companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to try and curb this phenomenon.

Although there was no evidence of a link in the UK cases, an MHRA official warned that the illegal medicine trade is linked to terrorism in some areas.

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A man burns fake animal medicine in China in 2013.

He said: "We've recently seen some indications that there may be terrorist groups involved," but added, "It's not something that the UK is concerned about at the moment."

At best, counterfeit medicine can be totally ineffective. But often, it can be incredibly dangerous. Interpol reported in 2013 that one million people worldwide every year die from counterfeit drugs, either from the ingredients in the fake medicine, or from the effects of an illness that has not been properly treated by the drugs.

Although the UK operation resulted in a huge amount of seizures, the Interpol-co-ordinated investigations, called Operation Pangea VIII, resulted in 156 arrests globally and yielded £51.6 million of items from 115 different countries.