Counterfeit medicines

There is a general increase in the number of people using the internet to purchase all commodities and there is a corresponding increase in the number of people using the web to self-diagnose and self-prescribe.

Medicines on the internet

Medicines obtained through unregulated internet sites may not have been prescribed by a healthcare practitioner, may not have been subject to the normal controls on manufacture and may not be of a suitable quality or be of the nature described.

The probability of obtaining fake or substandard medicines is greatly increased where the normal, regulated system is bypassed. This poses a very significant health risk.

If you are thinking about buying a medicine from an unauthorised source, you are strongly urged to consult your doctor or pharmacist.

From 1 July 2015 anybody in the UK selling medicines online to the general public needs to be registered with the MHRA and to be on the MHRA’s list of UK registered online retail sellers.

How to report suspicious medicines

DHSSPS Medicines Regulatory Group set out to raise awareness around the dangers of counterfeit products to the general public and healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland, allowing people to make informed decisions about where they purchase medical products from and making it easier to report any suspicious medicines.

Combating the sale of illegal medicines online

Operation Pangea is an international week of action tackling the online sale of counterfeit and illicit medicines and highlighting the dangers of buying medicines online.

Coordinated by INTERPOL, the annual operation brings together customs, health regulators, national police and the private sector from countries around the world.

The operation has gained significant momentum since its launch in 2008 and Northern Ireland was one of 100 countries to contribute to the 2012 Global operational results. 

The Real Danger campaign

The Real Danger national campaign was created to increase awareness of the risk of buying medicines online.

The aim of the campaign was to ensure the public have sufficient information about counterfeit medicines and recognise the risk of purchasing medicines online.

In October 2012 DHSSPS Medicines Regulatory Group re-launched the initiative throughout Northern Ireland.

Campaign materials were circulated to public facing healthcare venues throughout Northern Ireland, including all community pharmacies hospitals and GP surgeries.

Counterfeit medicines: Guidance for pharmacists

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in May 2006 jointly published guidance for pharmacists which explains the causes and consequences of counterfeiting and provides pharmacists with practical advice on detecting and reporting suspected counterfeit medicines.

'Counterfeit medicines: Guidance for pharmacists' explains the background to counterfeit medicine production and highlights how organised criminal gangs have become involved in the production of illegal medicines and are supplying them through the internet, often to unwitting patients.

The guidance offers pharmacists invaluable practical advice on the correct steps to take when they encounter suspected counterfeit medicines. These steps include reporting the situation to the MHRA and ensuring immediate patient safety.


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