The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), working with law enforcement partners, seized more than 15.5 million doses of illegally traded medicines with a street value of more than £30 million during 2023.
This includes more than two million doses seized during Operation Pangea, the international initiative of global enforcement partners that targets the illegal internet trade in medical products.
Last year’s seizures included prescription-only anti-anxiety medicines, opioids and sleeping pills and falsified and unlicensed lifestyle products such as erectile dysfunction and hair loss medications, as well as a small number of aesthetic products such as Botox and semaglutide-containing ‘weight loss’ products.
Working with partners, the MHRA also disrupted more than 12,000 websites illegally selling medical products to the public and shut down almost 3,000 social media profiles during the year.
The MHRA works with many online marketplaces, social media platforms and technology providers, as well as a wide range of law enforcement agencies at home and abroad to investigate and remove potentially harmful medical products that are offered illegally to the public.
One such collaboration, with eBay, saw the MHRA providing support and advice that resulted in eBay’s cutting-edge AI algorithm successfully recognising and blocking more than half a million unregulated prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines and medical devices before they could even be offered for sale to the public.
Andy Morling, MHRA Deputy Director (Criminal Enforcement), said: "Public safety is our number one priority. Our Criminal Enforcement Unit works hard to prevent, detect and investigate illegal activity involving medicines and medical devices, to protect people and defeat this harmful trade.
"This year, working with partners across public and private sectors, our efforts have led to more medicines seizures than ever, custodial sentences for offenders, the removal of criminal profits and considerable success in disrupting the trade online."