Five in court over 'EU's most serious fake medicine scam'

Five men put the health of sick patients at risk in the most serious fake medicine scam ever seen in the European Union, a court heard today.







Motivated by greed, the British businessmen were involved in an operation to import counterfeit prescription drugs for conditions including prostate cancer, heart disease and schizophrenia, from China to the UK, and pretend they were genuine products, to sell them, Croydon Crown Court was told.



By mimicking authentic, properly manufactured and tested medicines to suggest they were of EU origin, they illegally infiltrated the highly-regulated system designed to protect the public and pharmaceutical industry, the court heard.



Peter Gillespie, 64, of High Street, Bovingdon, Hertfordshire; Richard Kemp, 61, of School Lane, Y Waen, Flint, north Wales; Ian Harding, 58, of Lower Westwood, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire; James Quinn, 69, of Virginia Park, Virginia Water, Surrey; and Ian Gillespie, 59, of The Green, Marsh Baldon, Oxfordshire, all deny conspiracy to defraud.



They are accused of conspiring together and with others to defraud pharmaceutical wholesalers, pharmacists, members of the public and holders of intellectual property rights in pharmaceuticals between January 1 2006 and June 30 2007.



Andrew Marshall, prosecuting, said: "At its heart is a human story.



"When these counterfeit drugs were imported by these men we have been defrauded.



"The system has been corrupted and in particular patients, we suggest, put at risk.



"This case is considered to represent the most serious breach of the medicine control regime - it's the most serious breach that has happened in the EU.



"It has had far-reaching effects for the pharmaceutical industry, control mechanisms, patients and the confidence of the public.



"The purpose of this activity is not some beneficial motivation.



"It's to obtain the profits of buying illegal goods cheaply and selling them as if they were genuine.



"They were prepared to make their money by feeding duff drugs to people with serious illnesses such as schizophrenia, heart disease and prostate cancer."









Mr Marshall told the jury the prescription-only drugs involved were Zyprexa, a medicine to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with a registered trademark belonging to Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company; Casodex, an AstraZeneca-owned product used to treat advanced prostate cancer; and Plavix, which is prescribed to treat ischemic heart disease, and with a registered trademark owned by Sanofi-aventis.



To show the value of the medicines, the prosecutor said 145,000 patients in the UK were prescribed Zyprexa, which cost £79.45 for a 28-tablet packet, so if all the patients had one pack a year that would equate to £13.8m.



Casodex costs £128 a pack, while Plavix costs £35 a pack, the court heard.



The case arises from a "massive" investigation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which regulates the industry in the UK.



Mr Marshall told the court the man responsible for manufacturing the counterfeit medicines in China was prosecuted by US authorities and was in prison there.



Lu Xu, also known as Kevin Xu, was caught in an undercover sting in relation to a medicine scam which was not related to the allegations against the five defendants, he added.



All five men also face charges of selling or supplying Casodex and Plavix without a marketing authorisation and of selling or distributing counterfeit Casodex and Plavix.



The two Gillespie brothers, Kemp and Harding, are also accused of selling or supplying Zyprexa without a marketing authorisation and of selling or distributing counterfeit Zyprexa between January 1 2006 and June 30 2007.



Peter Gillespie also faces a charge of acting as a company director while disqualified for allegedly being concerned in the management of Basingstoke-based Consolidated Medical Supplies Limited despite having been disqualified for bankruptcy in 2005.



The defendants deny the charges.



The trial is estimated to last for four months.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back