Crackdown nets £150,000 worth of counterfeit drugs
A major crackdown in Northern Ireland has resulted in the seizure of £150,000 worth of counterfeit drugs which had been sold over the internet.
The week-long operation - code-named Operation Pangea IV - involved 80 countries across the globe and saw an incredible 13,000 rogue websites shut down.
Millions of pounds of fake medicines were seized across the UK as soaring numbers of cash-strapped people gamble with their lives buying counterfeit drugs over the internet.
About 1.2 million suspect doses were discovered in or en route to the UK, with more than 150 packages on their way to Northern Ireland, including the recently-banned mephedrone, steroids, pain relief injections and fake diazepam.
More than £5m worth of unlicensed pharmaceuticals was found across the globe as part of the largest operation of its kind.
Seizures relating to the industry in Britain have risen six-fold over the past year, according to figures from the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The Interpol-led operation, which concluded on Tuesday, came after two English schoolgirls were admitted to hospital with heart problems caused by weight-loss pills they had bought online. The operation is the largest internet-targeting enforcement action of its kind, with 80 countries participating in this year's event, the MHRA said. Across the world, 55 people were arrested or placed under investigation.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "It is vital that we get the message across that when you purchase medicines from an illegal online supplier, you just don't know what you are taking."
Nimo Ahmed, of the MHRA, said the bogus pharmaceutical industry was worth billions of pounds across the world as Britons log on to buy cheaper alternatives to over-the-counter medicines. Fake drugs are shipped into the country from across the world, with the industry growing fastest in China and Russia.
Mr Ahmed said: "It's vital that these organised criminals are targeted. Not only are they making harmful drugs, they are making millions of pounds in the process."