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Medicine: Internet

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to tackle the online purchase of counterfeit medicines. (254540)

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is responsible for tackling the availability of counterfeit medicines in the United Kingdom.

A strategy to combat counterfeit medicine was published by the MHRA in November 2007. This strategy includes steps to combat the availability of counterfeit medicines through the internet. A copy has been placed in the Library and it can also be found at:

www.mhra.gov.uk/home/groups/ei/documents/websiteresources/con2033156.pdf

Part of the strategy focuses on providing the public with sufficient information to make an informed choice on how to obtain their medicines safely. This includes raising awareness through national advertising campaigns with industry and patient groups, and media articles.

MHRA routinely monitor and investigate rogue websites offering medicines for sale on the internet. The agency can take enforcement action against wrong-doing based in the UK. MHRA work closely with the European Union and other international regulatory authorities to ensure that, wherever possible, offending websites based in those countries are amended to reflect the law and to request any appropriate enforcement action is taken by the authorities in those countries.

In addition the MHRA is active in monitoring the internet and co-ordinating international action, including enforcement activity focused against those sites either operating, or fulfilling orders from within the UK. MHRA have brought 14 successful prosecutions, for illegal activity over the internet, in the UK over the last five years, including the supply of counterfeit medicines.