Fake drugs made in China flood into Britain

Counterfeiting gangs based in China are producing sophisticated copies of the world's bestselling pharmaceuticals. In 2008 an estimated 8m of these potentially deadly pills found their way to NHS patients. The health of millions of people is at risk

They were made in China, labelled in French and then shipped to Singapore. They ended up in Liverpool and from there were sold straight into the heart of the NHS(National Health Service). As the criminal investigation continues into how a fake consignment of Zyprexa, an anti-psychotic treatment prescribed for schizophrenia, infiltrated Britain's healthcare system last year, evidence is mounting that sophisticated counterfeiting syndicates are increasingly targeting Britain's network of high-street chemists, hospitals and GP surgeries.

Figures collated for the first time reveal that British border officials seized more than half a million counterfeit pills destined for the NHS and high-street chemists last year, an amount equal to the quantity of counterfeit drugs found in the whole of Europe in 2005. So vast is the scale of the threat from fake medicines that public confidence in the NHS could be "completely undermined", according to legal experts. Health officials also warn that the health of millions of Britons is potentially at risk.

More than £3m of fake life-saving medicines for ailments such as heart disease and cancer were intercepted by customs officials and the Home Office border agency in the first 10 months of 2008. Three consignments were each larger than 100,000 pills.

In response, customs has upgraded tackling the trade in fake medicines to "high priority", the same urgency devoted to targeting heroin and cocaine dealers. Interpol recently revealed it was investigating reports that profits from counterfeit drugs are funding terrorist groups, including al-Qaida. Others warn that smuggling counterfeit drugs into Britain's healthcare network could prove to be a terrorist weapon in itself.


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