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HDA UK Media And Political Bulletin – 31 January 2018

Media and Political Bulletin

31 January 2018

Media Summary

Small number of pharmacies diverting prescription medicines to the black market

Pharmacy Business, Neil Trainis, 30 January 2018

 

Pharmacy Business reports on an investigation carried out by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency which has uncovered a criminal network involving “a small number” of registered pharmacies and wholesalers who have diverted prescription-only drugs on to the black market.

More than 40 arrests were made following extensive investigations which found that between £115 million and £200 million worth of medicines were channelled to the criminal market from the legitimate supply chain between 2013 and 2016.

Medicines such as Benzodiazepines and anxiolytics including Diazepam and Zopiclone and the painkiller Tramadol were found to have been sold on illegal websites. Indeed, the MHRA said there had been “a significant diversion of benzodiazepines and other hypnotics/anxiolytics” to the black market in 2016.

Alastair Jeffrey, head of enforcement at the MHRA, said: “Selling medicines outside of the regulated supply chain is a serious criminal offence and we are working relentlessly with regulatory and law enforcement colleagues to identify and prosecute all those involved in this activity”.

The results of this investigation by the MHRA were also reported by the National Pharmacy Association and Chemist and Druggist.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Department of Health and Social Care – Written question: Drugs Licensing, 30 January 2018

 

Alex Sobel: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he is taking to ensure that licensing for new drugs in the UK is not slowed down by the UK leaving the EU and the European Medicines Agency.

Jackie Doyle-Price: In July last year the Government set out three principles which will underpin the development of a post-Brexit regulatory system for medicines and devices: patients should not be disadvantaged; innovators should be able to access the United Kingdom market as quickly and simply as possible; and we will continue to play a leading role in both Europe and the world in promoting public health.

As the Prime Minister has stated, the UK is fully committed to continuing the close working relationship with our European partners. In this context, the UK will be working with the European Union to agree how best to continue cooperation in the field of medicines regulation, for the benefit of public health and safety in both the UK and the EU Member States.

Department of Health and Social Care – Written question: EMA, 29 January 2018

Virendra Sharma: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Medicines Agency on the UK health sector.

 

Full Coverage

Small number of pharmacies diverting prescription medicines to the black market

Pharmacy Business, Neil Trainis, 30 January 2018

 

An investigation by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has uncovered a criminal network involving “a small number” of registered pharmacies and wholesalers who have diverted prescription-only drugs on to the black market.

More than 40 arrests have been made following extensive investigations which found that between £115 million and £200 million worth of medicines were channelled to the criminal market from the legitimate supply chain between 2013 and 2016.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) said it had suspended five pharmacists and pledged to work closely with the MHRA.

Medicines such as Benzodiazepines and anxiolytics including Diazepam and Zopiclone and the painkiller Tramadol were found to have been sold on illegal websites. Indeed, the MHRA said there had been “a significant diversion of benzodiazepines and other hypnotics/anxiolytics” to the black market in 2016.

“Criminals are known to exploit vulnerable people by selling medicines through unregulated websites and stealing their credit card details,” said the medicines regulator whose investigation resulted in arrests for possession with intent to supply a controlled drug and offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

“Our investigations have revealed an extensive network of criminality involving businesses such as wholesale dealers and a small number of registered pharmacies throughout the UK diverting medicines,” the MHRA added.

There has been no indication that the diversion of medicines to the black market has driven a drugs shortage and the MHRA said “medicines supplied with a prescription, through registered pharmacies, are unaffected.”

However, the revelation that some registered pharmacies across the UK have been involved in the transfer of medicines to the criminal market will be a serious concern for a community pharmacy sector which has worked tirelessly to convince the government of the value it brings to local communities.

The MHRA has consistently warned people against buying medicines from illegal websites and the black market. A recent Home Office study revealed that 7.6% of adults had taken a prescription-only painkiller which had not been prescribed to them.

Duncan Rudkin, the chief executive of the GPhC, said: “We are working closely with the MHRA on the ongoing investigations into these very serious criminal offences. We have already taken action to suspend five pharmacists under interim orders and are actively reviewing at each stage of the investigations whether we need to take further action to protect the public.

“We would also strongly urge people not to take any prescription medicines unless they have a valid prescription as they could be putting their health at serious risk.”

Alastair Jeffrey, head of enforcement at the MHRA, said: “Selling medicines outside of the regulated supply chain is a serious criminal offence and we are working relentlessly with regulatory and law enforcement colleagues to identify and prosecute all those involved in this activity.

“The medicines being sold are potent and should only be taken under medical supervision. Criminals involved are exploiting people when they are at their most vulnerable; their only objective is to make money.

“We will continue to concentrate our efforts on identifying the criminals involved and ensure they are prosecuted through the courts.”

HDA UK Media And Political Bulletin – 31 January 2018

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