A man has been jailed for eight years for his involvement in the most serious fake medicine scam ever seen in the European Union.
Businessman Peter Gillespie, 64, of High Street, Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, was involved in an operation to import from China to the UK more than two million doses of counterfeit prescription drugs for conditions including prostate cancer, heart disease and schizophrenia.
Four other men - his brother Ian, 59, of The Green, Marsh Baldon, Oxfordshire; Richard Kemp, 61, of School Lane, Y Waen, Flint, North Wales; Ian Harding, 58, of Lower Westwood, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire; and James Quinn, 70, of Virginia Park, Virginia Water, Surrey - were acquitted of all charges.
By mimicking authentic, properly manufactured and tested medicines, Peter Gillespie illegally infiltrated the highly regulated system designed to protect the public and pharmaceutical industry.
Andrew Marshall, prosecuting, said patients had been "put at risk" by his fraud, adding: "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," he told jurors. "It has had far-reaching effects for the pharmaceutical industry, control mechanisms, patients and the confidence of the public."
The case arose from a £750,000 three-and-a-half year investigation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Mick Deats, head of enforcement, said after the trial at Croydon Crown Court that 72,000 packs of counterfeit medicine - with a retail value of £4.7 million - penetrated the UK supply chain between December 2006 and May 2007.
Some 25,000 of these packs reached pharmacies and were given to patients. The MHRA was able to seize 40,000 before they got to pharmacies, and 7,000 were recovered following recalls. Although the drugs contained just 50%-80% of the correct ingredients, Mr Deats does not believe they caused any fatalities or adverse reactions.
Peter Gillespie was convicted of conspiring 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.
He was also found guilty of selling or supplying Casodex and Plavix without a marketing authorisation and of selling or distributing counterfeit Casodex and Plavix along with selling or supplying Zyprexa without a marketing authorisation and of selling or distributing counterfeit Zyprexa between January 1, 2006 and June 30, 2007.