A codeine addict who contaminated packets of Nurofen Plus in a ruse to fund his habit has been jailed for 18 months.
Christopher McGuire, of Edzell Drive, Glasgow, cost the manufacturers £2.4 million and saved himself just £7 by placing strips of an anti-psychotic drug in empty packets of the painkiller and swapping them for new packets at pharmacies.
He was imprisoned by a judge at Southwark Crown Court for the "carefully thought out and skilfully executed" scheme, which created a "good deal of public fear and anxiety".
Passing sentence, judge Alistair McCreath told McGuire: "Your acts caused very considerable financial harm, amounting to well over £2 million.
"The costs included recalling the product, destroying suspect stock, investigating the problem which you caused, returning new products to the market and handling the reputational damage caused by you. In short, the harm you actually caused or might have caused by your acts was very high."
The court has heard how McGuire's scheme involved asking for Nurofen Plus at a pharmacy counter and then attempting to pay for it with a card he knew would be declined. In doing this, he created sufficient distraction to discreetly swap the contaminated packet for the fresh one and walk away.
His actions cost manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser £2.4 million when the painkiller was recalled. McGuire, who went to university at the age of 16, took 32 tablets of the drug each day to feed his secret addiction. But after losing his job he struggled to pay for it.
Instead, the 31-year-old replaced empty packets with the Seroquel he was being prescribed for schizophrenia, and the contaminated packs ended up in the hands of unsuspecting members of the public.
Two men, Peter Letham and Paul Connor, took the anti-psychotic drugs in error, believing them to be Nurofen Plus, and were left feeling unwell. Mr Letham's wife, Jacqueline, bought what she thought was a 32-pack of Nurofen Plus from a branch of Boots pharmacy in Bromley, south-east London, on August 21.
McGuire, of Edzell Drive in Glasgow, was tracked down to his landlady's home in Swanley, Kent, on September 23 after the origins of the Seroquel were traced. He admitted his actions and was later charged with causing a public nuisance.