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HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 10 June 2021

Media Summary

Over £9m worth of illegal medicines and devices seized
Pharmacy Business, Radhakrishna NS, 9 June 2021

Pharmacy Business reports that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said that government officials have seized over three million medicines and medical devices valued at over £9m as part of a global operation tackling the illegal online sale of medicines and medical devices.

In the UK, 113,000 illegally operating websites were also removed, or had their URLs blocked, whereas search warrants were executed, with the arrest of seven criminals.

The list of illegal medicines seized include anti-depressants, erectile dysfunction tablets, painkillers, anabolic steroids, and slimming pills.

Andy Morling, head of enforcement at the MHRA, said: “Criminals selling medicines and devices illegally are not only breaking the law but have no regard for your health. Taking fake or unlicensed medicines or using a non-compliant medical device could put your health and safety in danger and may lead to serious health issues.

This was also reported by Pharma Times and BBC News.

Discussions on NI Protocol ‘at a crossroads’, says Michelle O’Neill
Evening Standard, Rebecca Black, 9 June 2021

The Evening Standard reports that Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, has challenged the UK Government to “honour its commitments” on the Brexit Protocol.

Michelle O’Neill was speaking following a meeting of the joint UK/EU committee on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

She said progress had been made in some areas during the meeting, including on the supply of medicines from Great Britain, but there was “still a way to go.”

O’Neill said she is hopeful that they will find a solution regarding the potential restrictions on medicine supplies into Northern Ireland from Great Britain when a grace period ends at the end of 2021.

O’Neill said it was made clear to the UK Government that an agreement with the EU on veterinary standards, even a temporary one, would remove the need for the majority of the new checks.

 Parliamentary Coverage

Written Question – House of Commons, 4 June 2021
Feryal Clark (Labour, Enfield North): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he has taken to preserve the future sustainability of pharmacies.

Written Answer – House of Commons, 9 June 2021
Jo Churchill (Conservative, Bury St Edmunds): The Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework five-year deal agreed in 2019 with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, commits £2.592 billion annually to the sector. The Department continues to closely monitor the market and engage with the sector.

Rapid test kits rolled out to pharmacies
Scottish Government, Health and Social Care, 9 June 2021

Community pharmacies across Scotland are extending access to rapid COVID-19 testing kits for people without COVID-19 symptoms.

The expansion, which begins 9th June 2021 is aimed at encouraging further uptake of testing among people with no symptoms and finding cases which would otherwise go undetected.

It builds on current efforts in place to improve access to rapid lateral flow devices (LFDs) for people without COVID-19 symptoms, by making it easier for people without access to digital services.

Free packs are available to be collected from participating pharmacies, with each containing seven devices which can provide results in around 30 minutes.

There are 1,258 community pharmacies across Scotland that are eligible to sign up for the service. Participation is voluntary and it is for pharmacy owners to opt-in to provide the service.

Full Coverage

Over £9m worth of illegal medicines and devices seized
Pharmacy Business, Radhakrishna NS, 9 June 2021

Government officials have seized over three million medicines and medical devices valued at over £9m as part of a global operation tackling the illegal online sale of medicines and medical devices, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said.

In the UK, 113,000 illegally operating websites were also removed, or had their URLs blocked, whereas search warrants were executed, with the arrest of seven criminals.

‘Operation Pangea’, a week long action coordinated by Interpol, ran from May 18 to 25.

The operation saw over 100 countries joining forces to seize non-compliant medical products and also to identify and remove thousands of illegally operating websites and URLs offering medicines and devices.

The operation also involved coordinating the arrests of several suspected organised criminals.

The list of illegal medicines seized include anti-depressants, erectile dysfunction tablets, painkillers, anabolic steroids, and slimming pills.

Andy Morling, head of enforcement at the MHRA, said: “Criminals selling medicines and devices illegally are not only breaking the law but have no regard for your health. Taking fake or unlicensed medicines or using a non-compliant medical device could put your health and safety in danger and may lead to serious health issues.

“Operation Pangea is a powerful example of what can be achieved through partnership working to tackle this kind of offending. We will continue to work closely with our international partners and the UK Border Force to prevent unlicensed medicines from entering the UK, to identify illegally operating websites and to bring those criminals behind them to justice.”

The MHRA will be following the week of action with a detailed analysis of the global results to create a better understanding of current and emerging threats.

This work includes the identification of ‘hotspot’ exporting countries, favoured high-risk medicines being traded on the black market, and the ever-evolving business models of criminals worldwide seeking to take advantage of the public.

The MHRA’s #FakeMeds campaign aims to encourage people in the UK who choose to buy medication online to take steps to make sure they are purchasing from safe and legitimate sources.

The campaign also highlights the dangers of fake medicines sold online and the negative health effects that taking them can have. It also encourages people to report suspicious offers and any side effects experienced to the Yellow Card scheme.

Discussions on NI Protocol ‘at a crossroads’, says Michelle O’Neill
Evening Standard, Rebecca Black, 9 June 2021

Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister has challenged the UK Government to “honour its commitments” on the Brexit Protocol.

Speaking after a meeting of the joint UK/EU committee on the implementation of the Protocol, Michelle O’Neill said she felt they were at a “crossroads”.

She said progress had been made in some areas during the meeting, including on the supply of medicines from Great Britain, but there was “still a way to go” on other sticking points.

“I think certainly we’re probably at a crossroads point, I think that was certainly the indication from the EU side,” she told a Stormont press conference.

“Certainly there’s a frustration that the British Government have signed up to this agreement, however they have failed to bring forward ways to implement the Protocol in its entirety.”
However, First Minister Arlene Foster whose party, the DUP is pressing the UK Government to scrap the Protocol, described the meeting as “hugely predictable from the EU side”.

“The Withdrawal agreement joint committee mtg today was hugely predictable from EU side – legal purism without any sense of proportionality or levels of risk,” she tweeted.

“Glad @DavidGHFrost set out the issues and possible solutions in detail.”

On the issue of potential restrictions on medicine supplies into Northern Ireland from Great Britain when a grace period ends at the end of 2021, Ms O’Neill said: “We discussed in particular the issue of medicines, which is important that we find a solution there.

“And I think all sides are willing to do so and I’d be hopeful that there will be a solution found there, but there still is more work to be done.”

Ms O’Neill said it was made clear to the UK Government that an agreement with the EU on veterinary standards, even a temporary one, would remove the need for the majority of the new checks.

Demonstrations against the Protocol by Loyalists have been ongoing, with several hundred attending an event in Portadown at the weekend.

The pro-Union community in Northern Ireland oppose the Protocol and the checks on goods arriving into ports as having created a border between the region and the rest of the UK.

The Sinn Fein vice president said she made it clear that not everyone in the Northern Ireland believes the Protocol should be scrapped.

“I took the opportunity at the meeting to address head-on with the EU Commission and indeed with David Frost that the Protocol has afforded opportunity, it does afford protection to the local business community here but it certainly affords opportunity in that we have access to both the British market and the EU market,” she added.

Meanwhile Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, expressed disappointment at the lack of substantial progress.

He warned the clock is “counting down fast” for Northern Ireland consumers.

“We need immediate solutions to keep goods flowing now and we need a breathing space so that the UK Government and the EU can, in the longer term, find a workable solution that allows NI retailers to continue to give households the choice and affordability they need,” he said.

“This requires pragmatic controls which satisfy the EU’s concerns, recognises the deeply integrated GB-NI supply chains and can be introduced in a workable manner over a sensible time frame.

“The solutions are there. What we need now is the political will on both sides to see them delivered.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 10 June 2021

From Factory to Pharmacy

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